28 February 2008


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"Life is not only stranger than we imagine; life is stranger than we can imagine."
~ J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964)

As quoted in Robert Sapolsky's "Emperor Has No Clothes Award" acceptance speech, at the 25th annual convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (23 November 2003)

More J.B.S. Haldane online.

27 February 2008


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Helen Frankenthaler, "The Bay" (1963); acrylic on canvas

"There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about."
~ Helen Frankenthaler

Bonus Link:
The Wrigley School of Art Criticism
Twelve-year-old boy ignores rules; no art born.

26 February 2008

Show and Tell

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by Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld's illustrations the Guardian Saturday Review letters page. "Each image relates to a letter sent to the newspaper about literature or the arts."

~ via Making Light, where I also found these intriguing recipes for Cold Weather Drinks and a sidebar of Commonplaces with these gems:
  • "The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature." (Arthur D. Hlavaty)
  • "But isn't all of human history simultaneously a disaster novel and a celebrity gossip column?" (Anonymous LJ commenter)
  • "Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire." (Gustav Mahler)

25 February 2008

The Struggle

"The painters and sculptors of today cannot remain indifferent in the struggle to free humanity and art from oppression."
~ David Alfaro Siqueiros (1933)

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David Alfaro Siqueiros, "Después De La Grand Tormenta [After the Great Storm]"
(1966); pyroxolin on masonite, 12" x 18"

Click on image to see larger version in a new window.


It is interesting to note that 75 years after his statement about freeing art from oppression (and 34 years after his death), many images of Siqueiros' work have been removed from the web at the request of a "copyright collective" which presents itself as "an artists [sic] rights organization." Siqueiros may have been on to something when, in 1922, he wrote "We repudiate so-called easel painting and every kind of art favored by the ultra-intellectual circles, because it is aristocratic and we praise monumental art in all its forms, because it is public property."

24 February 2008

Being More Human

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David C. Driskell, "Movement, The Mountain"
(1980), egg tempera on canvas, 31.20" x 22.70"

Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

"I've always felt that art was a special or particular calling. I've even described it as being priestly in function... I do think that [as an artist] I am being more human and extending my humanity to others."
~ David C. Driskell (b. 1931), from "A Conversation between David Driskell and Richard Klank," as quoted in David C. Driskell: Artist and Scholar, by Julie L. McGee (2006)

23 February 2008

Charles Demuth

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Charles Demuth, "Buildings, Lancaster" (1930);
oil and graphite on composition board, 24" x 20"

Click on image to see larger version at Artdaily site.

Charles Demuth exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, today through 27 April 2008. [Artdaily]

Charles Demuth (1883-1935): "The History of Lancaster [Pennsylvania]'s Most Famous Artist." [Demuth Foundation / Charles Demuth Museum]

"Precisionism was an artistic movement that emerged in the United States after World War I and was at its height during the inter-War period. The term itself was first coined in the early 1920s. Influenced strongly by Cubism and Futurism, its main themes included industrialization and the modernization of the American landscape, which were depicted in precise, sharply defined, geometrical forms." [Wikipedia]

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Charles Demuth, "The Figure 5 in Gold" (1928); oil on cardboard; 35.5" x 30"
Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

The Great Figure
by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
fire truck
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city

[from Sour Grapes: A Book of Poems (1921)]

22 February 2008


Passing this along...
Call for work: The Audacity of Desperation

Deadline: March 10, 2008
Exhibition dates:
April 4- May 11, Indy Media Center (Urbana, IL)
Fall 2008, Sea and Space (Los Angeles, CA)

The Audacity of Desperation is an art exhibition, political action, and on-going dialogue. We are currently seeking distributable artworks addressing the topic of "desperation." Works should exist in multiples with the intention to be freely distributed to audiences. Media can include, but is not at all limited to: posters, stickers, stencils, zines, stamps -- ink and postage -- buttons, CDs/DVDs, postcards, t-shirts and manifestos.

We are working with a grassroots, anti-authoritarian philosophy that includes the anti-capitalist, non-competitive principle of mutual aid.
Much more at the Audacity of Desperation blog.

[via Just Seeds]

21 February 2008

The Philosophers' Rebellion

"Every significant artist is a metaphysician, a propounder of beauty-truths and form-theories."
~ Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

"All art is a revolt against man's fate."
~ André Malraux (1901-1976)

Art Machine

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Sol LeWitt, "Brushstrokes" (2000); gouache on paper, 22.5" x 29.5"
Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

"The idea becomes a machine that makes the art."
~ Sol LeWitt (1965)


19 February 2008

ConFest: 1 to 6

Inspired by Mark Cameron Boyd's 101 Conceptual Art Ideas, I've been brainstorming my own little list. Whether I'll reach 101 or not is anyone's guess. Note: I do not have a Fine Arts degree, so my concepts may be invalid, risible, or otherwise unsuitable for human consumption.

Concept #1:
Represent political candidates as condiments

Make a color without a name

Design a uniform for nonconformists

Design a symbol for meaninglessness

Portray a dramatic situation, using just three eggs

Design a monument commemorating all that has been forgotten

Spontaneous Expression

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Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, "Lemon and Glass" (1922); oil on canvas, approx. 14.5" x 19"
Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

"That word, 'art', is that what made the essence of my disagreement with ... all the rules and habits -- secular, academic, and iconographic; already as a boy I wanted the free, full, frank and spontaneous expression, which makes art."
~ Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, from Prostranstvo Evklida (Euclid's Space, transl. Yuri Mataev)

17 February 2008

Aesthetic: Experience

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sleeveface: "one or more persons obscuring or augmenting any part of their body or bodies with record sleeve(s) causing an illusion."


The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, by David Dodd
Project begun: January, 1995.
Suspended: June 26, 2007.

Where else could you find an essay on "'Dark Star' as an Example of Transcendental Aesthetics":
"Developed largely from the ideas of Schopenhauer, and later in the early 20th century by [Bennedetto] Croce and [R. G.] Collingwood, this theory sees art as that which produces a holistic sense of 'going beyond' normal life experiences. This transcendence is called the aesthetic experience and things that cause the aesthetic experience are called art."
~ by Steven Skaggs


Mr. Skaggs seems to espouse the aesthetic philosophy known as Expressionism. I might be mistaken; I'm new at this.

Five Philosophies of Aesthetics
~ adapted from Lesson Seven ("Should Art Be For Art's Sake") of Protest And Persuasion, at Chicana and Chicano Space; clearly this list is specific to the visual arts.
  • Imitationalism: Good art imitates the appearance of things. Art should be realistic: it should look like something.
  • Formalism: Good art affects its viewers because of the relationship among the visual elements in the artwork (lines, shapes, colors, values [lights and darks], textures, volume, and space). It's interesting to look at. Art is valuable in itself -- art for art's sake.
  • Expressionism: Good art expresses the emotions of the maker and has an emotional impact on its viewers. Art is about emotions.
  • Instrumentalism: Art should lead to some social good. Art has a function: it does something.
  • Institutionalism: Good art is determined by the responses of people with authority in the artworld (artists, critics, curators, scholars, teachers, etc.). Art is what art experts say it is.

Something that caught my eye while skimming over Joseph Kosuth's "Art After Philosophy" (1969): his parenthetical mention of "the apparent other 'functions' of art":
  1. depiction of religious themes,
  2. portraiture of aristocrats,
  3. detailing of architecture,
  4. etc.
Hmm... An interesting set of possibilities, especially when one considers what constitute the "religious themes" and "aristocrats" of our own culture, here and now. Not the conventional definitions of "religion" or "aristocracy," but what institutions in our own era truly function as analogs to the pre-Industrial concepts represented by those words.

I suspect, for example, that the genuine "religious themes" of present-day American culture are better represented by the advertising industry than by any nominally religious institution.

And what's hiding behind that "etc." at the end of the list? You have piqued my curiosity, Mr. Kosuth! I've been reading John Berger's Ways of Seeing, so I have all kinds of crazy ideas.

16 February 2008


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Fernand Léger, "Project Tapisserie" (circa 1945); gouache on paper, 9" x 12.25"
Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

"What does that represent? There was never any question in plastic art, in poetry, in music, of representing anything. It is a matter of making something beautiful, moving, or dramatic -- this is by no means the same thing."
~ Fernand Léger (1881-1955)

15 February 2008

February Futility, with Photographs

A few more from my own œuvre: this time, digital photographs which have been digitally modified. Some more than others. Click on images to see larger versions in a new window.

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Helquin, "Fountain" (2008); digital, 622px x 466px

Here in snow-covered southern Ohio, I'm fighting February Futility -- that final 30 days of white-knuckled holding on for Spring. But we've been having one heck of a freaky February, veering from highs in the 50s to lows in the teens.

That's Fahrenheit. For you Celsius folks, the range is roughly +10 to -10.

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Helquin, "Book" (2008); digital, 700px x 466px

85% of the page hits for this blog are from people using Google Image Search to find work by Andy Goldsworthy. Well, more power to him, but I'm starting to think that this whole "global village" thing ain't all it's cracked up to be.

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Helquin, "Dawn" (2007); digital, 374px x 500px

"The streets are full of admirable craftsmen, but so few practical dreamers."
~ Man Ray (1890-1976)

"Money changes everything."
~ Tom Gray, of The Brains

14 February 2008

Stains & Wishes

Happy Valentine's Day.

Here's a poem by American poet Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966).

What Is to Be Given
by Delmore Schwartz

What is to be given,
Is spirit, yet animal,
Colored, like heaven,
Blue, yellow, beautiful.

The blood is checkered by
So many stains and wishes,
Between it and the sky
You could not choose, for riches.

Yet let me now be careful
Not to give too much
To one so shy and fearful
For like a gun is touch.

13 February 2008


twee [twē]
adj. Chiefly British.
Overly precious or nice; affectedly dainty or refined.
[Origin: 1900-05; apparently reduced from tweet, mimicking childish pronunciation of sweet]

"As recently as 30 years ago, painting was not [just?] a twee, aesthete's diversion, cloistered in the museum; it was a mass medium of daily communication."
~ Greg Allen, "Painting Was Not Dead:
Manfred Kirchheimer's Stations Of The Elevated"

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12 February 2008

Fine Art on Album Covers

I've been compiling some data about painters, collagists, illustrators, and fine-art photographers whose work has been featured on album covers. I hope to have a more coherent post (or series of posts) on this topic later, but for now here's a patchwork of visual artists, with links regarding their musical connections.

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The artists are...
Top row (left to right): Salvador Dali (for Jackie Gleason), Peter Blake (for the Beatles), R. Crumb (for Big Brother & the Holding Co.), Andy Warhol (for the Rolling Stones).
2nd row: H.R. Giger (for Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Peter Schmidt (for Brian Eno), Robert Mapplethorpe (for Patti Smith), Frank Frazetta (for Molly Hatchet).
3rd row: Norval Morrisseau (for Bruce Cockburn), Winston Smith (for the Dead Kennedys), Robert Rauschenberg (for Talking Heads), Howard Finster (for R.E.M.).
4th row: Gerhard Richter (for Sonic Youth), Stanley Donwood (for Thom Yorke), Banksy (for Blur), Darren Waterston (for Silversun Pickups).

10 February 2008

Polaroid: R.I.P.

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"It's a sad day," said Ed Nute: Polaroid has announced it will cease production of its instant-camera films by the end of this year. As one NY Times blog commenter asks: "What will Andre 3000 shake it like now?"

See also:

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09 February 2008

Choosing. Preferring. Judging.

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Richard Hennessy, "Leaping Laocoön" (1985); oil on canvas, 60" x 66"
Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

"... [N]o matter how long you have painted, no matter how much experience you have accumulated, you can never completely predict what the mark you make with your brush will look like. You make the mark and then you have to react to it. And your reaction may not be immediate. It may take a while -- for me, at any rate, because I never start with a plan for how to proceed.... A painting acquires interest by becoming a record of the interaction of mind, matter, and physical activity. Choosing. Preferring. Judging. Making."
~ Richard Hennessy (b. 1941), from a conversation with Carter Ratcliff, in The Sienese Shredder #2

  • Laocoön in Greek mythology.
  • William Blake's "Laocoön"
  • 500th Anniversary of the Finding of the Laocoön on the Esquiline Hill in Rome (2006: Institute of Design & Culture, Rome)

08 February 2008

Art Jukebox

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Max Ernst, "Albertus Magnus" (1957); oil on canvas
See a larger version of this painting -- and much more from
Max Ernst -- by clicking the links for Giornale Nuovo, below.

What makes a great portrait?
Jörg M. Colberg asked a selection of "photographers, fine art and commercial, bloggers, curators, editors, and gallerists," and posted their answers on his fine-art photography blog, Conscientious.
[via wood s lot]


Though now defunct, Giornale Nuovo has a wonderful series on Max Ernst, with biographical information and lots of pics:


New York-based Photographer Bill Wadman, creator of 2007's 365 Portraits, has announced that he's "going to to start shooting lots of portraits again" -- and he's looking for subjects. See "Daily Portraits, or Nearly So, Redux" for more information.


I'm not quite sure where he's going with this, but Mark Cameron Boyd (of Theory Now) has launched a new blog: 101 Conceptual Art Ideas.


"In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it."
~ Ernst Fischer (1899-1972), The Necessity of Art

07 February 2008

A Human Constant

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Giles Lyon, "Strange Days" (2003); acrylic on canvas, 76" x 74"
Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

"I predict that painting will outlast techno-industrial civilization -- unless humanity changes in very radical ways how it relates to our planet. In other words, even if the species hangs on somehow and doesn’t destroy everything, painting will still be there. Just like writing and singing and dancing and storytelling around a fire. Painting and looking at handmade images are a human constant."
~ Giles Lyon (b. 1967)

Giles Lyon at Kinz, Tillou + Feigen gallery
Giles Lyon interview at Henri Art Magazine (30 January 2008)
Giles Lyon on Artnet

06 February 2008

A Freedom Or A Confusion

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Jasper Johns, "Corpse and Mirror II" (1976);
color lithograph on paper, 30.75" x 39.625"

Click on image to open a new window showing larger versions available at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

"As one gets older one sees many more paths that could be taken. Artists sense within their own work that kind of swelling of possibilities, which may seem a freedom or a confusion."
~ Jasper Johns (b. 1930)

Jasper Johns at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Timeline of Art History"
Jasper Johns at the Museum of Modern Art
Jasper Johns at Artchive

05 February 2008


Yeah, I know... Autumn is now four months gone. But I'm slow about posting my own pics. These are from October 2007, if I recall correctly. As always: click on images to see larger versions in a new window.

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Finally, from the same time period, here's a painting more or less inspired by the afternoon walks represented in these photographs.

I cringe every time I think about posting one of my own paintings. Frankly, I know that I'm not rockin' the painterly skillz, and I'm even worse when it comes to photographing paintings. But since I so much enjoy looking at work that others post, I figure it's only fair that I share something from my own easel. And it's been my motto (from way back in my performance days) to "face the flame" -- that is, to confront those fears & anxieties and just get on with the show already!

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Helquin, "Fall" (2007); acrylic & silver ink on linen, 18" x 24"

04 February 2008

Sylvie Barco

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Sylvie Barco, "True Colors" (2007);
digital print mounted on aluminium, approx. 39" x 59"

Click on image to see larger version in a new window.

"Sylvie Barco [a.k.a. 'Lily B.'], a young, talented and creative photographer, is known for her crisp, high-definition landscapes and shorelines. Her latest work leads her to photograph urban spaces using 'lomo' cameras which have the novel quality of multiplying the photographed subject, and to use the latest techniques to create colorful kaleidoscopic images. These meticulously constructed collections of images, these personal prisms, are the expression of an original and confident œuvre. Sylvie's photographic style pushes her to travel in order to reconstruct in these photo-mosaics the impression of the urban panorama which she observes and analyzes with a curious eye. She feels the city and looks for what it can offer her: shapes, colors or graphic elements which she will then put together in a rhythm that is harmonious or chaotic according to her inspiration."

Sylvie Barco - Photographe (in French)
Sylvie Barco at Artalk (an oddly translated English-language page)

03 February 2008


"All art begins with grids. All artists long for grids."
~ American poet John Taggart, from "Chicago Breakdown"

Click on images to see larger versions in a new window.

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Above, left: Bridget Riley, "C" from Nineteen Greys, 1968.
Bridget Riley at Wikipedia.
Right: Ewerdt Hilgemann, "Lichtrelief," 1974
Ewerdt Hilgemann at Galerie Kai Hilgemann.

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Left: Ray Johnson, "Calm Center," circa 1951.
The Estate of Ray Johnson official site.
Right: Patrick Bailly-Maître-Grand, "Le Hasard et La Nécessité (Chance and Necessity)" 2001.
Patrick Bailly-Maître-Grand: Site Officiel (in French only).

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Left: Chema Madoz, untitled, 1998.
Chema Madoz Fotógrafo (in English).
Right: Paul Klee, "Chess," 1931.
Paul Klee Database at Zentrum Paul Klee (in English).

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Above: Piet Mondrian, "Compositie Dambord, donkere Kleuren (Checkerboard Composition, Dark Colors)," 1919.
Piet Mondrian site maintained by Art Science Research Laboratory, Inc.

More: see "Grids" at Radical Art.