Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Lesson on Land Art

Written by Emily Shaw

Art is not confined to paint and canvas, as many might think. There are, in fact, many styles of art that utilize non-traditional media. One of these avant-garde art forms is known as “land art.” Also referred to as “earthworks” – a term minted by land artist Robert Smithson – land art usually consists of unconventional sculptures made solely from natural materials.

The movement harkens back to the second half of the 20th century, when artists wished to contest what they perceived as the “artificiality” of contemporary art. The perfect way to combat artificiality, it seemed, was to turn directly towards nature. By moving their work outside the museum setting and creating generally ephemeral works that were, by definition, impossible to sell, land artists effectively rebelled against the system.

Some of the most notable members of this movement are Robert Smithson and Andy Goldsworthy. Perhaps the single-most well-known earthwork comes from the man who coined the term: Smithson. The American artist’s 1970 “Spiral Jetty” is somewhat unique in the world of land art, as the piece still exists today, unlike most pieces of land art, which are fleeting. To create the piece the artist constructed a giant serpentine curl from mud, crystallized salt and basalt. The spiral is located in Rozel Point along the shores of Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Visibility of the earth sculpture is dependent on the water levels of the lake. In this sense, the piece is evanescent: Its presence or lack thereof is left entirely to the forces of nature.

Goldsworthy, on the other hand, creates works that truly are transitory. The Scotland native prefers to work with materials like leaves, twigs and water. Many of his pieces involve the painstaking cutting and arrangement of leaves or the manipulation of ice to create a sculpture. Of course, in a matter of days, hours or even minutes, these meticulously constructed works may be destroyed by something as unremarkable as a minor gale of wind. Goldsworthy’s art is of the land in the deepest sense: Both derived from and vulnerable to the forces of nature. For prime examples of Goldsworthy’ work, see photographs of his legendary pieces such as “Icicle Star,” “Rowan Leaves and Hole,” “Green Circle” and “Touching North.”

More recently, land art has made its way from the fields of Scotland and lakes of Middle America to the streets. The urban take on land art can be seen most notably with the emergence of “moss graffiti” – that is, street art constructed through the careful handling of moss, also known as “green graffiti” or “eco-graffiti.” Take, for instance, London artist Anna Garforth, a self-described “mossenger,” or a messenger who delivers said messages through the medium of moss words mounted on city walls. Also worth mentioning is the duo Edina Tokodi & József Vályi-Tóth, who proclaim themselves specialists in “urban greenery” on their blog, Unlike Garforth who favors written words, Tokodi and Vályi-Tóth concentrate on animal images, for instance, a cattle or deer outline. Their work – constructed mostly in Brooklyn – can also be seen on their blog.

To see other up-and-coming forms of graffiti and street art, be sure to check out Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla. The gallery is located at 920 Kline St. #104 in La Jolla, San Diego. Thumbprint Gallery exhibits contemporary, urban, lowbrow, and graffiti art from local artists. It is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Spray Paint Artists: A Performance Art Form

Unknown Aerosolgrafia artist entertaining an audience.
Written by Michael Ashman

Spray paint is not just for covering walls in graffiti, it can be used as a form of performance art. Aerosolgrafia, or spray paint art, is a divergent movement from graffiti art with an emphasis on performance as well as merely a visual expression. This art form is characterized by its flashy and futuristic-looking landscapes filled with planet-shaped objects, and radiant pyramids. On the street, artists quickly create their spray paint art for their audience. They often frantically switch paint cans and relocate their stencils over the canvas to keep the process entertaining to watch. Popularity for this offshoot of graffiti art quickly grew and gave the artists another way to express their urban style.

The founding father of this art style is Ruben "Sadot" Fernandez from Mexico City. In the early 1980’s, he began practicing his spray paint art out of his studio. Soon, he attracted a crowd as he moved out into the streets of La Rosa in Mexico City. He sat with a multitude of spray cans around him creating different landscapes, figures, and faces onto different canvases without using a brush. He painted to classical and rock music often sharing his views and opinions to his audience. His influences stemmed from other graffiti art from America and Europe, pop art, jazz fusion music and beatnik poetry. He was a poet, an intellectual and an entertainer. Even after his death in 1988 his spray paint art continues on.

Aerosolgrafia is more entertaining to watch than graffiti art. It is an amazing street art show in itself as artists spray quick passes of paint over a glossy sheet of paper or canvas. They build a unique landscape using only spray paint, different bowls for shapes, and blotters, such as paper towels and sea sponges. Sometimes the artist uses different cuts of newspaper to create texturing effects on the wet paint. There are many other, unique objects painters will use to alter the texture of the paint already on the canvas, such as plastic grocery bags or inside-out socks. Shapes such as planets, buildings, mountains, pyramids, are easy to create with stencils, folded newspapers, and circular lids. The artist must work fast before the paint dries and to keep the energy up for the crowd of onlookers.

The process of spray paint art works in reverse when compared with other art. Instead of painting the background first, some of the foreground objects, such as planets, trees, mountains, have to be painted first so that the colors are layered correctly and are in the right spots. Artists create a layout in their mind and use techniques, such as predetermined blocking and masking with objects. After many layers of carefully placed spray paint, the final product takes form and astounds the artist’s audience.

To learn more about local graffiti artists check out Thumbprint Gallery located at 920 Kline St. #104 in La Jolla, CA. Many of artists featured at Thumbprint Gallery have been influenced by the graffiti art scene. They have prints and stickers for sale at the online store.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Anime: An Emerging Cultural Phenomenon

By Charity Lantz

Anime is an abbreviated Japanese term used to describe the Japanese process of animation, i.e. Japanese Animation. Anime is a wide-spread interest, crossing many cultures. Anime may often be confused with manga, which is the Japanese word for comics and cartooning. Anime and manga are incredibly popular within Japan, as well with youth in America culture.

A still from Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors
The history of Anime begins in 1917 with the first Japanese cartoon short created as a form of propaganda. Later on, after Disney’s success with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Japanese animation legacy began. Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors was the first feature length animation, which was created in 1944. Anime was seen as an upgrade from traditional live story telling in Japanese culture.
Despite Anime’s early beginning, it hasn’t gained much attention in American culture until the last couple decades. Anime seems different from traditional art, but it is still highly considered an art form. By today, the art form has gathered an extensive and devoted following. This can be seen by the immense popularity of Pokemon or Dragon Ball Z in America, both of which are traditional Japanese manga. Another cartoon that became popular in the states would be Sailor Moon, although probably without as much of an impact. Manga can be bought in almost any American bookstore, making the animation highly accessible to vast amounts of people. Many famous Japanese animations are made after successful manga series. The themes of Anime vary from Japanese literature or fantasy, to adult-oriented themes, such as sensuality. Many anime’s embrace fantasy, and animals or magical creatures are the star of the animation.

Overly dramatic expressions from Fullmetal Alchemist
The formal qualities of Anime stay fairly consistent between different artists and animations. The backgrounds for Japanese animations are almost always hyper-realistic in shading and perception of space. Yet the character’s themselves are often highly stylized, especially when emphasizing emotion. The expressive figures are often supplemented by large and bold textual exclamations. A typical anime character would display large eyes in a heart-shaped face, with bright, outrageous hair, on a slender, simplified form. Another popular character in Anime would be the ninja hero or warrior. In this case, the character would likely maintain the outrageous hair, with the addition of an outrageously muscled body.

Although these exuberant characteristics are frequent, they are not always the case. Some animated films permeate darker themes, and the characters are symbolic of the intended mood. A good example of this would be Spirited Away, an incredibly successful animated film in both Japan and America. In the film, a young girl escapes the anxiety of moving to a new place through her imagination. The film is still carried out within a fantastical storyline; however, the characters themselves are portrayed as more realistic or mundane. This is done intentionally to contrast the protagonist’s reality with the audacity of the her imaginings.  

The same outlandish imagination can be seen in contemporary art featured at Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla. It is located at 920 Kline St. #104 in La Jolla, San Diego. The gallery exhibits contemporary, urban, lowbrow, and graffiti art from local artists. It is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12pm to 4pm.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Tattoo: Origin, Culture, and Relevance

By Charity Lantz
A Māori Chief with tattoos

Tattoo origin is often debated, but most agreeably contributed to the Pacific Islands. For hundreds of years, the ancient peoples of Polynesia practiced tattoo, but not like we see it today. Travel over two hundred into the past, to ancient New Zealand with your mind, and then imagine a darkened hut, filled with sweet billowing smoke and hushed chants. Now imagine the screams coming from the man on the floor that is having his face chiseled into with an axe.  After the muscle is openly displayed, the priest performing the tattoo fills the gash with stinging pigment.  This aggressive, invasive process caused the skin to be grooved in addition to the mark. This added a sculptural quality to the tattoo art. The Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, saw this practice, which they called a moko, as the ultimate honor and proof of self-worth. Tattoo origin is widely associated with Polynesia; however, this chiseling process is exclusively Māori. The rest of Polynesia used a sharpened piece of bone and punctured the skin with ink on the tip. Tribal tattoo has a huge influence over many tattoo designs seen today.  Most tattoos implement tribal designs into the basis for a variety of overall difference images.

The Polynesia people also reserved tattoo to only high ranking individuals, seen as priests or chiefs; unlike today, when everyone and their grandma are getting inked. The popularity that tattoo has gained over the past decade is incredible. In a short time, contemporary tattoo culture has become rather inclusive, from musicians and rappers to hot chicks and nerds.  Tattoo is often associated with various music genres; Punk, Rock n Roll, Rap, and electronic artists can all be seen sporting tattoo art. Tattoos range from complex, classic tribal tattoo to Darth Vader as a baby with a drinking problem (I’m not joking). The clothing fashion of tattoo culture is hard to pinpoint exactly. A shot in the dark would put somewhere between hardcore greaser and grungy skater/biker. I guess if that’s what your mind conjures from rolled up sleeves, half-smoked cigarettes, and glimmering sun glasses, all while being covered in elaborate tattoo art, then you are on the right track.  But this image is just what the media portrays. In reality, all walks of people get tattooed for their own wishes. In today’s society, tattoo is often a broad indication of an individual being an artist or rebel in their own cause.  

The style and culture surrounding tattoos conveys a hard-minded mentality and a bad attitude, the same could be said of tattoo artists themselves. The process of becoming a tattoo artist is no light joke; it’s a lengthy and commendable goal to approach. To become a tattoo artist, the artist must first apprentice for two years. Before even performing a single tattoo, the apprentice must first learn proper sanitation and trade procedures by shadowing the experienced tattoo artist.  The tattoo art process can vary from the artist’s using either a pattern, print or nothing but bare skin an image, mental or physical.

Tattoo culture influences many contemporary urban artists as well. If you want to see more contemporary art visit Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla. It's located at 920 Kline St. #104 in La Jolla, San Diego. The gallery is open to the public Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm-4pm. Many styles of prints, stickers, and artwork can also be bought at the gallery's online store. 


Sunday, December 30, 2012

The State of Things: The Urban Art Market

Written by Samantha Tutone

Art has been considered one of the most intelligent investments anyone can make. Unlike other investments, such as automobiles or real estate, the value of art does not depreciate over time. Let’s say a developer builds a four-story home directly in the way of the ocean view from your multi-million dollar house, and voilá, there goes half the value of your investment. The art market has been steadily growing for years. It’s rapid expansion into a global market, with new fresh art investors, collectors, and the introduction of new artistic styles, has caused a huge boom. Is this a positive thing in the long run? Well, that is a question that has yet to be answered.

In 2007 the art market hit an all time high. Urban art made an explosive entrance onto the global scene, with headliners like graffiti artist Banksy. The turn around sale of prints were absurdly fast, doubling and tripling the price of pieces overnight. Young collectors and those who purchase art purely for speculation jumped onto the urban art market without too much thought; following the trend. Not long after the flood of urban art, the inflated prices on the art market, art investors were not willing to pay the astronomical prices. The subsequent financial collapse of the art market is no big secret. Fear of such an event occurring again in the contemporary and urban art market has caused some investors and collectors to be apprehensive about future purchases.

It is difficult to assess the state of the art market. Sale made by private art investors, collectors, and galleries are just that: private. Transactions are not subject to the public record like auction houses are. Without knowing what artworks are selling for across the entire board, any evaluations on the health of the art market are purely estimates. The urban and lowbrow market is even harder to pin down. Most urban art that is for sale at auction are several years old, with an established value based on the success of the artist over those years since the work was created. However, many urban pieces are not sold this way. Urban art is typically sold in local galleries and through private sales, with most collections being several months old, instead of years.

The state of the urban art market has been steady. Private sales, while information is limited, seem to be rising again. Art lovers and collectors continue to purchase urban and street art regardless of the auction house value. As far as fears about another global art market crash? The circumstances in which the market boomed are no longer a factor, making it unlikely that any kind of serious crash to reoccur.

To see what is fresh in the local urban and lowbrow art market visit Thumbprint Gallery, on Kline Street in La Jolla. More about the artists and art featured at the gallery can be found on the Thumbprint Gallery website. The gallery is open 12-4pm Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Origami and Lace: Finding a Place on the Streets

Written By: Carly Deblock

The words street art and graffiti generally conjure up ideas of men armed with spray cans, tags and stencils. There is a new scene on the streets. In recent years, the number of female street artists has been on the rise and they bring with them game-changing concepts and materials. One wouldn’t necessarily expect the use of lace and paper to be considered unconventional; origami and lace were both being created in the 15th to 17th centuries. In the world of street art, the use of origami and lace is pioneering to new levels. Spray paint has become the standard in urban art and these innovative women are changing that standard.
Lace Graffiti by Mademoiselle Maurice

The discussion of gender is quickly being silenced as the addition of texture, originality and impermanence gives the artwork a well-deserved place on the streets. The dialogue between the art and the environment changes with each piece, dependent on the surroundings or artwork itself. The evanescent qualities create an intense appreciation for the craft and for the meanings the art encompasses. The conventional spray paint methods are being taken to the next level with lace stencils, or without spray paint at all.
Artist Mademoiselle Maurice is one of the most influential artists contributing to urban art community in Paris. She creates her short-lived graffiti with delicate origami, ribbons and handmade lace. After living in Japan for a year, Maurice returned to France with a newly developed love for origami. She began constructing origami art pieces in vibrant colors and eventually yearned to display her talents in a larger scale. Her uplifting origami installations create a fragile gradient of hues that stretch across barren walls and seem to expand in front of the viewers eyes. The contrast between the colors and the dull grey walls captures the eyes of passersby and the work transforms the city into a outdoor art gallery.

NeSpoon is another urban artist who is breaking the stereotypes within graffiti, working with lace. She uses her positve artistic energy to create urban art with traditionally old fashioned lace, referring to her own work as “jewelry of the public space”. Her goal to “dress up the city” is fulfilled through creation of enlarged lace patterns spray painted on walls and buildings. NeSpoon also works with textile lace to interweave her ephemeral work into the atmosphere. She is constantly creating complex cobwebs of yarn and lace in unexpected locations around Europe. The ancient craft of lace is then transformed into stunning and contemporary works of art.
Origami Graffiti

As more urban installations appear in cities around the world, the more people are observing these new trends. Origami, lace, ribbons and yarn are just a few of the innovative materials being used on the streets. A significant increase of women are moving their art to the streets, where the graffiti has been a male-dominated territory. Whether these artists are holding a can of spray paint or a handful of lace and yarn, these women are contributing to the urban art community in profound ways.

At the Thumbprint Gallery, the current artist on display, Jack Stricker, intelligently incorporates lace as a stencil for his artwork. More about the artists and their art can be found on the Thumbprint Gallery website. Located at 920 Kline St. #104 in La Jolla, San Diego, the gallery exhibits contemporary, urban, lowbrow, and graffiti art from local artists. Thumbprint Gallery is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12-4pm.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Matisse: Wild Joy

Written by Charity Vincent

Henri Matisse was one of the most influential artists in the formation of modern arts. Matisse was a French painter, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor in the early Modern era of art. The artist’s unique style and innovative ideals earned him an eternal place in art history. Matisse’s style can arguably be broken into three key elements: arbitrary color, fluid contours, and “wild” subject matter. “Wild” can be unpacked to mean gestural, free, erotic, light, happy, and overall inappropriate content for his era.
The Dance (First Version) by Matisse

Matisse was born on December 31, 1869 in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France. Matisse was born into the wealthy household of a merchant, where he was brought up sternly yet lovingly.  Matisse’s father supplied him with prime education and law school in Paris. However, by the time Matisse finished with his training in 1888, he was dissatisfied with his field. The artist claimed he developed his eye for color from his mother, and rightfully so, because it was his mother who introduced him to painting in 1889. His mother had brought him color paints in hopes it would cheer up Matisse as he recovered from illness. Matisse started with still lives and became immediately consumed with an intense love for painting.

Not long after starting his artistic career, Henry Matisse became a forerunner in the Fauvism movement. The Fauvists believed in freedom and nature.  Fauvist work contained loose lines, brash brush strokes, strong colors, and blunt distortion of space. Fauvists were more concerned with the pleasures of life and innate desires, than structural and representational concepts. In their attempts to portray life as nature, the Fauvists drew a lot of influences from African sculpture, which is abstract, stylized, and geometric in style. This look was seen as primitive and savage during that time. The Fauvists called themselves les Fauves, or “the wild beasts.” Matisse, along with André Derain, led the Fauvist movement forward by creating numerous paintings containing all of these Fauve elements.
Le Bonheur de Vivre (The Joy of Life) by Matisse
Arguably, Matisse’s most known and celebrated painting is The Joy of Life, painted in 1905. This painting is a depiction of numerous nudes dancing, lounging, and exchanging intimacies. All the figures interact harmoniously with the others, as well as the trees, even though the space is a bit crowded with people and shrubbery. The bodies of the subjects are elongated, fluid, and graceful and become unanimous with nature itself. The colors are arbitrarily decided upon, yet all fade into each other with luminescent beauty. The perspective of the painting causes the audience to feel as if they are spying on an erotic natural process from nature itself, the leaves and branches framing the scene. Matisse is quite known for his simplified, yet fluid nudes.  The Joy of Life is a quintessential example of both Matisse’s style and chosen subject matter.

There are many more examples of modern and contemporary art at Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla. The gallery features local artists as well as artists from around the country. The gallery is open to the public Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm-4pm and is located at 920 Kline St. #104 in La Jolla, San Diego.