One of these gentleman looks (sort of) like my high school English teacher. The other looks like he could be an art dealer or a movie producer.
I love the contrast of their personal choices concerning the following: suit jackets, shirts, ties (most notably), eye wear, adjustment to baldness.
Two other things of interest beyond the subjects control: facial disposition and hand gesture.
The conversation is clearly intense and both men are deeply invested in whatever the topic is. Maybe sports or a family dispute. Or perhaps it is the discovery of what could be one of the most important advances in physics we will see in our lifetimes.
Here is the caption to this image, taken from the Guardian: Physicist Peter Higgs (right) and François Englert at Cern during a press conference to announce the probable discovery of the Higgs boson.
Entitled Portrait of Gerti Schiele and painted by Egon Schiele in 1909, this piece is one of the first of Schiele’s work that I was exposed to as a child. His style was so expressive and modern, so different than most figure drawing and painting I had known, I found it hard to believe it was created in the early part of the 20th century.
It reminds me in many ways of the Saville/Knight image I posted last week. There is a great deal of negative space surrounding a female figure. That space is expertly used and cuts a stark figure out of the canvas. However this work has more than just the black and pink textures of the Saville/Knight image - here we see at least five different ways in which Schiele manipulates paint to create expressive patterns and textures.
I like how the bright colors used on the figure’s right and bottom areas contrast with the dark brown shape of what could be an overcoat. I find one of the most curious features of the piece to be what appears as a disembodied hand reaching out to touch Gerti’s stomach. The stomach itself is painted with a peculiar pattern that makes me think of intestines, but could easily be the fabric of a dress.
We discussed what I love about Franz Gertsch last week. Here’s another - I think it’s an appropriate post-4th image. It evokes a true slice-of-alternative-lifestyle vibe. I really like the details like the plastic bag hanging on the wall in the background, the blue and white tiles, and the texture of the curtains.
This image is a still from Devyatoe yanvarya, which means 9th of January.
The film recounts the story of the Bloody Sunday massacre that took place in St. Petersburg in 1905. Unarmed, peaceful demonstrators were gunned down by the Imperial Guard while on their way to present a petition to the Tsar Nicholas II. This terrible display of the state’s utter disregard for the wishes and lives of the common people played a role in the events that would lead to the Russian revolution in 1917.
The image effectively illustrates the division between the ordinary people of Russia and the Tsarist State, and foreshadows the progress of the revolution itself. One side is stands motionless and over-confident. The other runs forward, perhaps still unsure and hurried with fear. One group is well a ordered state apparatus, consisting of only men. The other group, which has broken rank, is made up of men, women and children of all ages. The white void of space between the two groups implies the ideological differences at the heart of the conflict. Most importantly, one group is armed with weapons, the other carries only a petition.
Besides being a striking image, today’s LOOKATTHIS makes me think about how important it is to reflect on what Independence Day here in the United States actually means to each of us, and how we might try to live up to and protect the freedom that we are guaranteed (at least on paper) as a citizen of the United States.
Another image that I love for it’s striking graphic quality. The inky black silhouette itself is pleasing, and its juxtaposition against the pink fabric of the dress creates a powerfully stark and simple image.
It’s also interesting to note that the image was created in 1986 by fashion photographer Nick Knight and graphic designer Peter Saville. It was included in a look book of work by fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. True to the working ethos of photographer, graphic designer and fashion designer, these avant-garde images were extremely unconventional at the time because they show only select details of the clothing and none of the models face or body.
Doesn’t matter if its an ant eater or elephant, I love the strong graphic quality of this mural. I do have to vote for elephant or perhaps wooly mammoth, because its clearly dwarfing the car.
The car itself might seem accidental, but without it the composition would lose integrity, and have less of a subtle narrative. The comparison of scale would be gone. I wonder if the car was parked in this spot intentionally, or if it was a matter of fortunate happenstance.
I also like the curly shape created by the trunk, the simple dot for the eye, and the negative rectangle shape created by the legs. I enjoy the way the drain pipe is painted white, and how it bisects the animals form.
How great would it be to see things like this painted around the city in our parking garages and lots?
American photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia has the uncanny ability to combine his sensibilities as an art, editorial and fashion photographer. The resulting images blur the lines between reality and imagination, truth and fiction, and between fine art and advertising.
At first glance this scene feels like a documentary shot. The bird droppings on the floor and the grime on the walls of the dilapidated room do not feel like a set. But look a few seconds longer, and it starts to become less clear whether or not this is real life or a staged shoot. The young man’s posture seems too perfect, and the light from the window too ideal. Something about the shadow of the crooked coop seem wrong and overdone.
Despite my observations, I have no idea if this image is staged or not. Its one of set of images I have in the LOOKATTHIS folder from what appear to be a series. I can as easily imagine the shot being for a fashion advertisement as I can see it being for a more serious magazine or newspaper.
The tableau itself evokes a sense of hope and freedom. The flute player, in his crisply draped dark blue garment, sharply stands out against the dirty light blue walls. He is collected and content amongst the squalor as he urges the birds to fly. I can feel the flapping of the birds wings as they stir up dust, making their way towards the light coming from the window.
There are two types of things that I enjoy about this image of Fidel Castro, who is seen by some as a revolutionary hero, and by others as an authoritarian dictator.
1. Novelty: Castro’s tracksuit, the unkempt beard and the expression on his face are all completely out of sync with the politically charged and often militaristic images of him that are widespread and commonly recognized. The snapshot quality of the image further enhances the disconnection from our learned perception of the most well known-Marxist in the Americas.
2. Imagined Conversation: Much like I wondered about Antonioni’s conversation with Vitti, I’m intensely curious as to who he is talking to, and about what. Is he on the line with the Kremlin? Maybe hes chatting with his doctor, who’s telling him to lay off the Cuban cigars. Perhaps its his brother and their talking about sports. I could endlessly speculate.
Who do you think Fidel chatting with, and about what?
It’s curious how we form our opinions about images. To first read about a painter, visual artist, sports player or in this case an architect, and then to see their work or performance in a photograph or a book will prefigure your reaction to the image. Seeing the work or performance happening in front of you creates another, different reaction. Watching the action on a film or video recording elicits yet another. And vice versa - its a complex web of reaction, preconception, adjustment and surprise.
Back to the image at hand. This is the Therme Vals hotel complex located in the Graubünden canton of Switzerland. It was designed by architect Peter Zumthor.
I’d never known of Zumthors work until around 2006 and then only through two of his books Thinking Architecture and Atmospheres. The books gave me an insight into who this man was as a person, and I saw this personality clearly represented in the way he approached his craft as an architect.
I of course became obsessed for a bit, eagerly Googling every image and text I could find out about Zumthor. He would also go on to win the coveted Pritzker prize in 2009, which would garner him recognition on a international level.
The question is if I had not read these books first, before seeing the images of his work, would the image then been less attractive? Or would I, as a person who usually views architecture photos as boring and too much as advertising, have simply written these off as another set of photos from a fancy spa in Europe?
It’s hard to say. I do enjoy that the image shows the Therme Vals in use. The spa is made for humans. Bodies are touching the stone and going into the water. The people are leaving hair, skin and sweat behind. The human interaction with the space is an important part of the photo. The inclusion of the people reflects how Zumthor thinks about his buildings as a stage for human events and relationships.
I’m sure they said it could not be done! Too windy, too high, too risky. You might get die, or worse get arrested.
But it was done.
In August of 1974 French high wire artist Phillipe Petit performed this incredible act of unexpected beauty by walking on a tightrope between the towers of World Trade Center in Manhattan.
For me this act and image represent three traits necessary to create a truly remarkable piece of art (or a truly remarkable piece of anything for that matter). Those traits are imagination, daring, and organization.
Petite reinvented what he saw as formulaic circus performances. He first brought his performances to the streets of Paris, and ultimately to large buildings such as Notre Dame and the WTC.
He did not have permission to perform on these buildings. Risking arrest, he approached his audience in a new way, and blurred the lines between trespassing, transgression, daredevil entertainment and art.
The World Trade Center walk was meticulously planned over six years. Reconnaissance was done, models were built and endless hours were spent practicing. Petit knew that for this “coup”, as he called these excursions onto large buildings or monuments, to be successful he’d have to treat it like a military operation.
The walk addresses architectures production of a sense of alienation in cities, the creation of an audience, boundaries between public and private space, and the struggle of the individual against monolithic indifference.
Petit’s total dedication to his vision and his ability to see through obstacles that would to most make the entire endeavor totally impossible continue to be a source of inspiration for me.
I was in my early 20’s when I first discovered Gordon Matta Clark’s Splitting. The piece, as well as all of his other work, sparked within me a new interest in being an artist. For a long time creating art, at least art as I understood it at the time - made in a studio and hung on a wall in a gallery or museum - never seemed right for me. I was not a painter. I was told design was not art. I didn’t have the technical skill or equipment to be a photographer. Performance art usually seemed contrived and unappealing. Things seemed to exist in silos, and I couldn’t understand a way to make all of the interests I had come together as part of a cohesive practice.
Splitting shattered these perceptions. Matta-Clark splits a suburban New Jersey home in half. He documents the work and makes collages from it. The house is ultimately demolished by the state of New Jersey, the piece is effectively destroyed.
Splitting is an artwork that existed in the world outside of institutions and academia. The home is part of the real world, part of the fabric of reality. The piece took the influence of many disciplines and the skill of many types of people all working together in order to come into being. It’s surreal, minimal, temporal and subversive all at once.
Splitting redefined and opened up new avenues and ways to approach creation and expression for me. Inspired by Matta-Clark, who was trained as an architect, I realized that I could use my varied background to create art. I combined things that I had learned studying design, growing up in a working class neighborhood, and running a small business with my natural aesthetic ability and talent for synthesizing connections between images and people. I learned how to make art in a new way, effectively offering new perspectives on the world around us.
This is the packaging for the red cassette version of New Order’s Substance, released in August of 1987. I believe it was issued in blue as well. The cassette tapes, along with an insert, were cleanly packaged in a light grey box. The words “New Order | Substance | Fact200c) were printed in a medium grey in the upper left hand corner, expertly placed by designer Peter Saville.
Seeing the vinyl version of this album as a teenager (and all of the other record packaging that Factory Records produced), had a huge influence on my artistic and design sensibilities. I’d go so far as to say these artifacts are what gave me any design sensibility at all.
They encouraged me to research designers and art movements from the past and incorporate these lessons into my own work, just as Saville had done when working on many of the Joy Division, Durutti Column, and New Order art.
I was emboldened to develop my own style, and strove to tell a story and create a community around the work that I produced, and to aim to make sure that whatever I put my time and energy into had cultural significance in some small way.
This is a painting created by Swiss artist Franz Gertsch. Yes, it’s a painting. The pieces are over-sized and hyper-realistic. It’s called Christina, and was made in 1983.
I was immediately enthralled by the intensity in the woman’s (presumably Christina) straightforward, almost deadpan gaze. Gertsch’s skill is clearly shown in his ability to realistically render skin-tones and light. He displays almost super human ability when reproducing finer minutiae such as the details of hair and the fabric of the blue sweater.
I didn’t know about Gertsch’s work until a good friend (you know who you are) showed me a book of his paintings. Not my first exposure to hyper-realistic portraiture. The work of similar artists like Chuck Close never really did it for me. Gertsch’s work strikes me as immediate and compelling, while Close seems cold and mechanical.
Gertsch’s paintings are more real than real. They open up questions about our relationship to portraiture, photography and painting itself - room for endless contemplation and reflection.
Azzedine Alaïa has always done things his own way. In this image he drapes an American opera singer in the colors of the French flag to celebrate the Bicentennial of the French Revolution. The blue, white and red are sharply contrasted by the expected all black and simple outfit that Alaïa wears. The difference in height between the designer and his subject is profound, and I love the shape created by the space between the two figures.
Alaïa’s ability to fuse politics, fashion, economic and social events, a personal history and an ever-changing world into a something as simple as a piece of clothing has always impressed me.
I think this is a spread from Time or Life magazine. I’d bet it was published around the time of the Kent State riots.
It’s charged image on a number of levels. The juxtapositions are numerous, encompassing the type of clothing, hair style, colors, posture, and hand-held implements all the way through to politics and world view.
The photo almost feels staged to me. The teenager on the right looks like any number of young people today. Did the young man choose to stand next to the soldier? Did he know how strong an image this combination would create? Or perhaps these two young men knew each other as children, and their lives diverged on much different paths, only to reunite for a few awkward moments during a protest at the local university campus.
The visual dichotomy of the image reveals a deep and unsettling rift in American culture during the 60’s, a rift that I think is even more serious today.
All of the images have been found on the internet, and none of them belong to me. I'm merely making commentary, and hopefully imparting some insight, both to myself and the viewer, as to why these images made it onto the LOOK AT THIS folder in the first place. Subscribe via RSS.