Last Saturday Paula Cooper unveiled Kelley Walker’s solo show revealing his new vibrant body of work that captivates viewers through its combination of popular culture, art, advertising and politics. A work that consists of 190 silkscreen and acrylic ink panels takes over the entire back room and brightens the space. The assemblage of panels, some color and others grey, encompasses a large rectangular room of stark white walls, allowing the viewer to be completely consumed by it.
It is quite a sensation standing in the dead center of the room surrounded by scattered panels on the wall. As you get closer silkscreened Volkswagen Beetle advertisements from the 1950s-70s are unmistakable, they seem as if they are about to lift of the flat surface. Each of the ads are contorted and punctured that nearly look 3-D on a flat panel. Walker manipulated a 3-D modeling process called Rhino and figured out how to force the program to accept 2-D images. It’s almost a mind trick considering the intense contrast between the folded or rolled VW advertisements and the ultra flat, 100 percent opaque colors behind them.
As beautiful as the piece is, it is hardly just aesthetic. Walker is known for his politically and culturally charged work. Here he chose to use the Volkswagen Beetle advertisements demonstrating the power of the media in creating and also transforming this iconic image.
“The directness and humor of the VW campaign is largely responsible for the now iconic status of the Beetle and for rebranding a product that, only a decade before, was widely associated with the Third Reich (the ‘People's Car’)”
Kelley Walker takes it upon himself to re-contextualize this iconic campaign into something of his own, into something of our current culture and time.
Kenny Scharf opened his exhibition 'Kolors' last night at Paul Kasmin Gallery. It was a colorful affair complete with a particularly delicious collaboration between Scharf and The Doughnut Plant. Known for his colorful paintings, murals, and close friendships with artists Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat during the East Village art scene of the 1980s, Scharf was one of the first artists to inject street culture into mainstream contemporary art. He continues to incorporate imagery from cartoons and pop culture into his exuberant painting and sculptures. Scharf took some time out of his day to answer a few questions about his work and new exhibition.
Let's start from the beginning. How did you get your start making art?
My earliest memory was finger painting in nursery school. I can remember vividly the excitement I felt and the visuals like it was yesterday.
You're from LA - do you think being from there influences your work?
Growing up in LA definitely influenced my art. I was constantly being bombarded with imagery that spoke of the space age in cars, architecture, and media. The colors and imagery are still fresh in my mind.
Then you came to New York and became friends with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. What drew you to each other?
Fate - they were some of my first friends I made immediately upon arrival.
With Keith you made blacklight installations called 'cosmic closets,' which eventually caught the interest of the Whitney, who then asked you to recreate it for their Biennial. How did that come about and what was that like?
Keith and I lived in a decrepit townhouse near Bryant Park - I converted an old large closet into an installation after I came upon a blacklight and began to put items from the street garbage into the room and painted them florescent. It began to grow and became the "closet," and then the "cosmic cavern." It became the site of a lot of fun parties!
A lot of your work prominently features cartoons characters and pop iconography. What about that interests you?
That I own these icons because they are personal to me, yet they are also shared by millions!
You have a series of doughnut paintings. What about doughnuts interests you?
They look good, taste good, yet are bad for you. They have a hole in the middle and resemble the universe. Some scientists think the universe is shaped like a doughnut. They are the ultimate good-to-look-at, bad-for-you consumer object. They're fun to paint.
Through your work you have developed a fully formed world with characters. You've translated this into animation in the past - will you be making more in the future?
I would very much love to make more animation.
You've made a few sculptures: one for your show at Honor Fraser and your sculpture at the Standard Hotel. What is it like seeing your characters move from the 2D realm to 3D?
Ive actually made many sculptures over the past 30 years, but these new ones are different and I think more successful in their bright, colorful, shiny boldness. It is natural for me considering all the paintings incorporate imagery that has a "3D" look.
You often refer to yourself as a customizer and have transformed objects ranging from household appliances to Cadillacs. What about that interests you?
Taking everyday usable objects and turning them into art is a great way of incorporating the everyday task and transforming it into a magical art experience, thereby uplifting the banal into beauty and experience.
Tell me about your collaboration with Kiehl's - what was it like to make over a product as iconic as the Crème de Corps? How was that process?
It was great to work with Kiehl's as they have such a good graphics team - they made it super easy for me!
What are some of your new inspirations and what are you looking forward to?
I am very exited about the present and future. Besides my show opening next week, I am about to make another mural in NYC on Hudson and 14th Street, I'm showing in a "futures" exhibit in the museum in Mobile Alabama in May as well as painting a mural there, and I am also customizing a 70s Pontiac in a new and very exiting way as well as some other fun stuff that I can't mention yet!
Holton Rower's first solo exhibition in New York opened at The Hole on April 28th. A stark contrast to the bare white walls, Holton's psychedelic pour paintings erupt from the walls in a wild array of colors. Rower creates these paintings by pouring doctored paint onto plywood. Though the process seems simplistic, it yields beautiful and unexpected results: paintings that look like coral, geodes, petrified wood, surfaces of distant planets, marble, the Aurora Borealis and more. See photos below!
On Wednesday evening Ryan McGinley showcased his newest work, Animals and Grids, at both Team Gallery locations. Animals featured nude studio portraits of friends and models with their animal of choice, leading to humorous, beautiful, occasionally painful, and generally unpredictable results. Grids, a much more emotional and intimate-feeling body of work, focuses on close-up portraits of young fans at concerts.
Atlas Sound played a brief but fun set on the rooftop of the Wooster Street location, which was shut down but then moved into the gallery. See below for more photos and video!
A crowded Wooster St.
With the weather in New York tending towards the dreary, rainy, and slushy in late February, our Vitamin D-deprived minds are longing for sunnier climes. In lieu of a week in the Caribbean, the next best thing is to walk down the block from RxArt's space to the Duro Olowu exhibit at Salon 94 Freemans. The show, beautifully curated by the Nigerian-born, London-based fashion designer Olowu, is a treasure trove of contemporary art, furniture, fashion, jewelry, books, and photography by the likes of Juergen Teller, Hamidou Maiga, Laurie Simmons, Philip Kwame Apagya, and Lorna Simpson among others, all of which is set against brilliant pops of colorful vintage West African textiles. All of these elements coalesce to transform the small space into a cabinet of curiosities that makes lingering indoors a pleasure.
Some of our favorite pieces include handpainted book covers by Glenn Ligon created specifically for Olowu, mirrors by architect David Adjaye, glazed ceramic milk crates by Mattias Merkel Hess, and the arresting studio portraiture of Malian photographer Hamidou Maiga. Of the eclectic mixture, Olowu states on Salon 94's site: "My work, like my eye, is certainly international in its aesthetic, offbeat yet focused. As such, I am always open to the surprise of the new, the technique and skill of the past and the ability of fashion and art to challenge preconceived ideas of taste and culture."
See photos below the break and better yet, check out the show before it closes March 31! All photos courtesy of Salon 94.
On Sunday I went up to MoMA to see the highly-anticipated Cindy Sherman retrospective. A master of disguise, Cindy Sherman has assumed a multitude of roles throughout her career, both in front of the camera—as a housewife, aristocrat or clown—and behind it—as a photographer, stylist, and art director.
From her groundbreaking series "Untitled Film Stills" (1977-80) (Sherman in stereotypical female roles inspired by 1950s and 1960s films), her ornate history portraits (1989-90) (in which she poses as aristocrats and milkmaids in the manner of Old Master paintings), and her larger-than-life society portraits from 2008 that address the representation of aging in the context of contemporary obsessions with youth and status, Sherman styles herself into female archetypes circulated by our image-driven culture.
The Cindy Sherman retrospective is open at MoMA until June 11th. Be sure to check it out!
Saturday night artist André Saraiva opened 'Love Letters', his first-ever solo exhibition in New York. The playful and charming show includes graffitied french mailboxes and a series watercolor love notes. Incorporating quotes by Jacques Prévert and Henry Miller and painting scenes of everyday life, André invites the viewer into his world.
See more below the cut!
In the first group show of the year, Casey Kaplan brought together 13 artists for the group exhibition Rotary Connection, organized by gallery director Loring Randolph. Artists include RxArt friend Andrew Kuo, Julia Dault, Benoit Maîre, Marlo Pascual, and Isabelle Cornaro. The result is a fun multidisciplinary show exhibiting the diversity of the New York contemporary art scene.
Golden Girl, Julia Dault
Self-Portrait, Andrew Kuo
What do you get when you combine thousands of colorful polka-dot stickers, kids, and psychedelic Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama? The Obliteration Room, an interactive installation which is part of the exhibition "Look Now See Forever" at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art. Kusama brought her characteristic polka-dot aesthetic to a monochromatic, fully furnished white room, which served as a blank canvas. Over the course of two weeks, thousands of visitors were invited to collaborate in the transformation of the space, covering the room in a cacophony of color. Check the end results below!
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