Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Martha Rosler

Last Thursday I went to a talk with artist Martha Rosler. Check it out here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Art and Public Spaces in LA

Last night I went to a talk at the Hammer on art and public spaces in Los Angeles. It was moderated by Chon Noriega (in brown, in the middle), Director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Center with panelists Judy Baca - on the left in red and founder of SPARC, Sandra de la Loza - can't see her but she's next to Judy and is founder of Arts and Action and PRS, Edgar Arceneaux - founder and director of Watt's House Project , and Christine Kim - formerly with the Studio Museum in Harlem she is now associate curator at LACMA and founder of LAND.

The talk began with an introduction followed by a short presentation by each of the panelists. Judy Baca is amazing. She had so many wonderful things to say about art and community and her stance and appreciation for graffiti/urban art is something that one seldom hears coming from the Art Institution. Judy is responsible for the Great Wall of Los Angeles and is currently working on a new mural that has so many embedded layers of context and meaning it is just marvelous. You can see that on either of her sites. She brought up a very interesting topic, which as a young artist I don't often think about consciously. She made the point that when she was starting out and first seeing murals being painted they were all white faces. She grew up in LA and the faces she saw around her were not white, but brown, so she decided to depict a family sitting on a bench except they had brown faces. This act caused an uproar in the 70's and people called her work obscene and violent and inappropriate. It was really interesting to hear a first hand account of how the public can view an alternative voice as a violent destructive voice. In many ways this still persists today, but in less obvious, more closely concealed ways. Judy is also a professor at UCLA.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

In Search of Duende

After my last post I decided to scrap the original concept for my small paintings and made this instead. I'm reading Picasso's War and when duende was mentioned, I was immediately intrigued and decided to do something with it. Duende is a spanish term that is difficult to define and is applied across a wide array of disciplines. I suggest clicking the link for more info, it's really interesting stuff. I like that it's dark and can raise some dust. I like Lorca's idea of doing battle. I like the sword and all it conjures up. I like it even more with coupled with duende. I like that duende is vague and that it's mere mention opens up all sorts of interpretations - duende in action? I realized after the fact that the title is also the title of a book of collected works by Lorca on the same topic.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Finding Inspiration

I've got to be honest, this week has been rough artistically. My computer is on the verge of death, which makes reviewing and editing several gigs of photos an enormous task. Last week my brain was on overdrive, coming up with new ideas and projects left and right. This week though, only silence. It might have to do with the fact that I'm a little stressed about how my photo project is coming along and I'm stumped about how to proceed with my little paintings - they didn't turn out the way I wanted them to. So, I'm feeling bummed about art and don't really know where to look for inspiration.

Sometimes it's hard for me to force myself to look for inspiration. I could go for a nice walk outside and be inspired by nature, but I also hate actually being in nature if I don't have to be. I could play some Dada-esque word game, or paint from the masters, or do some art exercises but sometimes when you're in a slump it all feels too forced and I don't work well that way. Besides, each person has their own way of finding inspiration and none of those fit the bill for me this week. What to do?

I did what any modern girl would do: I asked Google. Well, more like I typed in "art inspiration" in the Google search box at work, and you know what, it worked! Several sites and several clicks later I found myself at About.com which had a ton of articles on what to do when you're feeling down about art. One article I found particularly interesting was about right brain/left brain theories and art. Naturally one assumes that all artists are right brained but I can tell you that is certainly not true and that a little bit of both can be a good thing. Take Hanna's post on watercoloring. Christine was very left brained in that she was able to see that getting a particular shade of red would be better achieved by layering (the left brain sees things as a series of pieces which it then puts together to form the whole), rather than Hanna (or myself for that matter!), who would rather be able to get that right shade with one wash, a very right brain tendency (the right brain sees first the whole, then breaks it down).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When I watercolor, I warp

When I watercolor, I warp.  Le papier.  My thick creamy sheet of watercolor paper never fails to warp, no matter how hard I try.  I supposed I'm not trying enough.

New friend Christine joined us for art night, and Jan and I were astounded.  Under her brushstrokes, roses came to life.  She had an intuitive sense for swirling her brush around, getting just the right amount of water on the tip of her brush.

I told Christine about my problem.  She said, "Restraint!  Watercolor requires incredible restraint.  You just have to hold back."  Hmm...not my forte.

I started out with every intention of practicing restraint and then thought, Oh to hell with it.  I slathered color on to my sheet and soon enough, my candy apple looked like a rotten apple.

Christine took one look and said, why don't you try a true red instead of brown and use more layers of red to get a darker color on the apple.  Tip #2--layers are a must in watercoloring--sparsely colored layers deepen the color without warping the paper...apparently.  I haven't quite experienced that for myself yet but  Christine's work convinced me it was true.

My apple, with a pumpkin gnocchi at the top.  Not bad.

Christine is donating her piece to Spirit Jump , a neat nonprofit that allows artists to give artwork to patients in hospitals and make their stays more pleasant.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Inspiration: Outsider Art

Irren-Anstalt Band-Hain by Adolf Wolfli

I've always believed that everyone is an artist which is why I find Outsider Art so inspiring and fascinating. Outsider Art is a term used to refer to art and artists working outside of the conventional art world. The term includes those who have had no formal art training, suffer from some sort of illness, or are on the fringe of society. Back when I was in Chicago I used to go to the Intuit Gallery which is a gallery dedicated to Outsider and Intuitive Art. At the time they had an exhibit of work made by African sisters and people who were in mental institutions, two separate exhibits btw. I remember being so attached to the work and loving every single line I saw. I can still see the raised lines of shiny black ink coming together to form one yellow umbrella, then another, and another. It was so simple but it was so compelling. It was raw and beautiful and carefree, a pure expression as opposed to a calculated composition. I also really enjoy Folk Art which often overlaps with Outsider Art, but academics and hardcore fans are very adamant about keeping the two separate. A good place to visit in LA is the Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) on Wilshire, right across from LACMA and the tar pits.

Whenever I feel like I'm hitting a wall or am focusing too much on making things perfect or exactly right, I like to take a break and examine some outsider art. It reminds me that things do not have to be perfect in order to be beautiful or meaningful or artistic, but that rather the opposite is often true - that meaning and beauty come from flaws and evidence of a human hand. It also reminds me that art should be a joyous endeavor, even when dealing with difficult ideas or difficult circumstances. Outsider and folk artists are also a great example of the power of answering your call. Take the Watt's Towers, or Salvation Mountain or the work of Rev. Howard Finster. They had a calling to do something great and you know what, they did it! For years they toiled and hauled dirt and bent metal and cut wood until one day they changed the world by changing the hearts of those who came into contact with them.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Joseph Kosuth, One and Three Chairs

I think one of the things that scares people away from art is that they feel it's too abstract, or silly, or it just doesn't make any sense. I've taken my share of art history courses over the years so I'd like to think I'm knowledgeable enough to appreciate what I see, at the very least, in an art historical context, even if I don't personally like it. It's assumed that if you go to a museum or gallery, you know enough about art to appreciate it at face value. But what about everyone else? How important is it to provide some context?

I'm currently working on a project where I'm photographing a lot of Asian people. The project has to do with race studies and the theory that "White" culture has become the default culture for the rest of America. That means that although I am Asian, since I've been raised in the US, I have inherited the majority view (ie. White culture) along with my own Asian culture. This becomes even more interesting when viewed alongside minority self-hate issues. The goal of the project is to question how we as Asian people view other Asians, to what varying degrees do we exhibit self-hate, for what reasons, and if this is conscious or subconscious. For non-Asians viewing these portraits, how do they react to an anonymous group of Asian people, and what associations and assumptions do they make? How does viewing a large group of Asian people in an art setting differ from how we view Asians in real life, walking down the street? Do those feelings and attitudes carry over or does the change of setting mask them? Context also extends to environment; viewing something in a gallery or museum space is very different from viewing it on the side of the street or in a store window. Take for example the pop up LV store at the Murakami exhibit at MOCA.