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Celebrating Magritte’s 116th Birthday

A famous artist during his lifetime who preferred the quiet anonymity of a middle-class existence, Rene Magritte embodied his art. Born November 21, 1898 in Belgium, today we celebrate his 116th birthday and rich legacy. From humble beginnings as a commercial artist, producing advertising and book designs, Magritte grew into one of the most celebrated Surrealist artists of the 20th century. Although he despised the label, he had a captivating, idiosyncratic approach to the style.

Rene Magritte

While some French Surrealists experimented with new techniques, Magritte settled on a deadpan technique where he chose to focus on the fact that no matter how naturalistically an object is depicted, the item itself can never be caught. His desire was to create poetic imagery and once described the act of painting as “..the art of putting colors side by side in such a way that their real aspect is effaced, so that familiar objects—the sky, people, trees, mountains, furniture, the stars, solid structures, graffiti—become united in a single poetically disciplined image. The poetry of this image dispenses with any symbolic significance, old or new.” (Frasnay, 99-107)

This type of thinking is what inspired Magritte’s greatest works, The Son of Man (1964), Golconda (1953) and The Treachery of Images (1929) to name a few and influenced countless generations of artists that include John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jan Verdoodt, Martin Kippenberger, Duane Michals and Storm Thorgerson. With a legacy like that, it’s certainly clear that Magritte was a man who died much too young at the age of 68 due to cancer. However we are forever graced with his brilliance and continue to celebrate him through exhibitions, books, and specials.

Frasnay, Daniel. “The Artist’s World. “Magritte.” New York: The Viking Press, 1969. pp. 99-107

View our current works by Rene Magritte

 

Sister Corita Kent, The Female Pop Artist with a Spiritual Message

Corita Kent, “be” “of love” “(a little) more careful,” “than of everything” (all from 1967)

Pop art was a genre mainly dominated men in the art world in the 70′s, but Corita Kent or Sister Mary Corita Kent as she was also known, challenged that norm and the dominating message of consumerism. An American Catholic nun, educator, and artist, her works instead held spiritual messages of hope, love, and peace.

As an artist Sister Corita Kent constantly appropriated original advertising graphics and she would tear, rip, or crumble the image, then re-photograph it. In particular using texts from scripture, newspaper clippings, song lyrics, and writings from literary greats such as Gertrude Stein, E. E. Cummings, and Albert Camus as the textual focal point of her work to create her serigraphs. Her goal was to appeal to common human values, and her stunning oeuvre does just that. Reminding all who see it to question their surroundings and carry hope in their hearts.

Chagall and Picasso, A Friendship that Wasn’t Meant to Be

As two of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall were contemporaries and one-time friends. Their art couldn’t have been more different as Picasso leaned towards cubism while Chagall embraced romanticism. But their similar life experiences and successes made them the perfect companions as well as provided the catalyst for their eventual feud.

Thinking about Picasso, 1914 by Marc Chagall Ink of paper

Thinking about Picasso, 1914 by Marc Chagall
Ink of paper

They were always aware of each others artistic output and Chagall held Picasso in high esteem throughout his early career. When Chagall moved to Paris in 1910, he wanted to meet Picasso and asked the poet Apollinaire to introduce them. Apollinaire refused, with the reply: “Picasso? Are you feeling suicidal?”. At that time, a meeting was not to be as Picasso was in the midst of creating cubism with Georges Braque. The rejection however did not sway Chagall from his admiration of his contemporary as he completed a drawing Thinking of Picasso in 1914 before returning to Russia.

Picasso and Chagall at the Madoura workshop

Picasso and Chagall at the Madoura workshop

After this almost brush, both of their lives and world events led them down very separate paths and they were not to officially interact until around 1944. It was during this time, that Chagall sent Picasso a letter from the United States (where he was living on political asylum) requesting to meet him. At the end of Second World War, the meeting finally occurred when Chagall was able to move back to France. Picasso was living on the French coast at the time near Vallauris, working at the Madoura ceramic workshop and Chagall traveled out to meet him. They hit it off instantly and frequently met up and corresponded for years until 1964 when their friendship ended.

As it is divulged, the friendship ended over an argument that occurred at a dinner party that Chagall hosted for Picasso and Françoise Gilot. The argument is rumored to have occurred such as this:

“When are you going back to Russia?” Picasso asked Chagall.

“After you,” said Chagall with a smile. “I hear you are greatly loved there [as Picasso was a Communist] but not your work. You try to make it there and I’ll wait and see how you do.”

As Picasso didn’t like that answer, he replied to Chagall “I guess with you it’s a question of business. You won’t go unless there’s money in it.”

This exchange highly offended Chagall and therefore he never spoke to Picasso again. With Chagall henceforth referring to Picasso as “the Spaniard” and sarcastically saying “What a genius Picasso is! It’s a pity he doesn’t paint.” He even created a work titled Tired of Picasso (n.d.) to express his new found distaste for the artist.

Picasso and Chagall

Picasso and Chagall

Picasso meanwhile was unaffected by the feud and slight, saying “When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is. I’m not crazy about his roosters and asses and flying violinists, and all the folklore, but his canvases are really painted, not just thrown together. Some of the last things he’s done in Vence convince me that there’s never been anybody since Renoir who has the feeling for light that Chagall has.”

Full of egos, each artist has their own agenda in their dealings and Picasso and Chagall were no different. Perhaps more similar in values than Chagall cared to admit, Picasso and Chagall shared wonderful years together. Although they never collaborated, their influences can be seen in each others art with Chagall’s attempt at embracing cubism in the work Cubist Landscape (1918) and Picasso’s attempt at romanticism in The Lovers (1923). The silence between the two up until their deaths is a rather sad ending for what could have been a very rich exchange, both artistically and personally. But at least, for a brief moment of time, two of the greatest artists in history shared dinners and ideas and the world is all the more richer for it.

MORE ON PABLO PICASSO:

MORE ON MARC CHAGALL:

 

The New Exhibition @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz in San Francisco, California

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist and activist, is a persecuted man constantly on the edge of imprisonment which makes his most recent installment called @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz very intriguing. Organized by the San Francisco–based nonprofit FOR-SITE Foundation in partnership with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz includes a series of large-scale installations occupying several buildings on the historic and infamous federal prison Alcatraz.

Alcatraz, San Francisco California

Utilizing the powerful history of Alcatraz itself, the exhibition examines incarceration as a tool of repressive governments, and creative expression as an act of defiance and individual freedom. Exploring themes of exile and imprisonment, of isolation and alienation, and how people worldwide are imprisoned or exiled for their thoughts and beliefs and for standing up for democratic ideals, Ai Weiwei has built upon his art and activism. The installations resonant with individuals and communities internationally, while capturing the artists personal experiences. Ai Weiwei himself chose to take a stand for his art rather than be silent and was detained by Chinese authorities for 81 days in 2011 under the guise of multiple tax evasion charges.

“With Wind,” a Chinese dragon kite, above, is one of Ai Weiwei’s installations at Alcatraz.

It is widely known that the authoritative Chinese government has an animosity towards Ai Weiwei’s artwork and choice of speech that criticizes them at every turn. That is why they continually target him in such callous ways and why today he is not allowed to leave the country. Due to the restrictions, he and his team constructed the pieces in their studio. He then sent three teams to the United States to erect the seven art installations inside Alcatraz’s dining room, labor building, the psychiatric observation cells, hospital and inside the cell block.

The exhibition features sculpture, sound, and multimedia works, but perhaps the most resonating is the 8×5 feet concrete cell you can sit in and listen to the works of dissidents, such as anti-Apartheid singers and anti-Soviet musicians whose poems or songs landed them in prison. Over 176 people are represented in the installation from around the world with Pussy Riot, Martin Luther King Jr., Edward Snowden, and Chelsea Manning being among the most well known.

Cell Block A

In addressing the themes of the exhibition, Ai Weiwei said, “The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case. When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill.” His focus on the right to free expression, the irrepressible nature of creativity, and the role of art, artists, and individuals worldwide in shaping social change is an important one to keep at the forefront of today’s growing issues. Serving as an important reminder that the freedom of expression comes at a price, even if you live in a free country.

Part of 176 Lego Portraits of Political Exiles at Alcatraz Prison installation

Resources:

Miranda, A Carolina. Ai Weiwei Alcatraz tour: Legos, protest songs and prison cells. LA Times. 9-26-2014

Park, Madison. On Alcatraz, Ai Weiwei raises a voice on dissent. CNN. 10-22-2014

 

 

View our current inventory: http://www.masterworksfineart.com/

 

Diamond Dust: Shining Bright with Artists

Diamond dust is a glittering material that can be applied to paper and ink in the silkscreen printing process to create a textured and luminous finish. Many artists such as Andy Warhol and Russell Young use the famed diamond dust cover in their works to give them an added sense of significance and depth respectively. As anyone who has seen a diamond dusted work in person can say, they capture the light in a way that beautifully plays to the colors on the work while bringing about a shinning aurora. An artwork can be greatly enhanced by such an addition in value and beauty, so what exactly is it?

Diamond Dust

Well diamond dust is very interesting in that a majority of it is not made of diamonds but rather glass or other clear material. As diamonds are an important natural resource and their unique properties are valued for both gem making and industrial purposes, their use in art is rare. The percentage of diamonds used to create gems for jewelry averages at below 20 percent, while lower-grade diamonds are used in many industrial settings, such as mining.

It is the further, low-grade diamonds that are often ground into dust, which is then sifted into different batches according to size and then used as abrasive powder. The powder is used to form grinding wheels or polishing paste, in addition to being used to polish high-grade gems and in technology industries as a coating for integrated circuits. Therefore with all of its utilitarian uses, true diamond dust is difficult to acquire for artists, which is why it is a mixture of glass, diamonds, and other clear materials.

The dust is sourced from special manufacturers and the artist can choose the size of the grain from fine to coarse, as well as the color. However many commonly use the clear diamond dust as it gives off the best kaleidoscopic sparkle effect that the dust is wanted for. The dust is then applied during the printing process instead of an ink layer. The glue is applied to the work and then the artist has only minutes to apply the dust before the glue dries. A hard material once glued, diamond dust is surprisingly durable and has been as enduring artistic material for several decades.

Warhol, “Queen Margrethe II of Denmark (White) from the Reigning Queens Royal Edition with Diamond Dust of 1985″, Screenprint

Andy Warhol was one of the first artists to really incorporate the diamond dust material into his silkscreens with his first use being the 1980 series ‘Diamond Dust Shoes’. This was followed by his 1982 series ‘Myths’ and the 1985 Royal edition of his famous ‘Reigning Queens’ series. The use of diamond dust having been to heighten the sense of glamor and myth, suggesting luxury and expense. All things Warhol famously appreciated and displayed with pride, which when understood in the context that Warhol had his dust specially created for him, makes the works all the more special.

Inspiring future generations, Warhol was the muse behind Sir Peter Blake’s first use of diamond dust in 2009 in his Warhol tribute piece. Since then, diamond dust has now become a part of Sir Peter Blake’s Pop Art aesthetic; making for captivating works that present the subject in an almost virtuous tribute like form. Meanwhile Warhol’s portraits inspired the more contemporary artist Russell Young. Internationally recognized for his larger-than-life silkscreen prints that feature diamond dust, Young is a fan of the material, having said, “I am fascinated by the way light bounces off the three-dimensional surface of my Diamond Dust paintings. In this series, light and the way it is reflected is as important as the subject matter.”

Young, "Marilyn Monroe Laughing", 2009. Black and gold, acrylic and enamel screenprint on canvas with diamond dust

Young, “Marilyn Monroe Laughing”, 2009. Black and gold, acrylic and enamel screenprint on canvas with diamond dust

Therefore the use of diamond dust in art has a wide range of symbolism and presents a wonderful outlet for creativity. As it is a material that easily transforms the canvas into something spectacular, it allows that artist to captivate the viewer in a way they could not otherwise and art would certainly be poorer without it.

Resources:
ArtRepublic: Diamond Dust is an Artist’s Best Friend
UC Berkeley: Diamond Comments