Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mr. Brainwash: Creative Fraud or Original Genius?

Written by Charity Lantz

Who is Mr. Brainwash? Mr. Brainwash is the alias of Thierry Guetta, a filmmaker/street artist gaining recognition in urban art culture for various negative and positive means. Although Guetta was born in France, the majority of his life is based in Los Angeles pursuing filmmaking, and eventually art making. Guetta had his debut show in 2008 titled “Life is Beautiful” at the CBS Studios in Los Angeles. The show included numerous paintings and prints, along with colossal installations and sculptures. The reception was a huge success, and jumpstarted his career. Commissioners of his work included Michael Jackson and Madonna.

Guetta’s story begins when he left his clothing business behind in order to create a film that documented graffiti artists at work. His interest in graffiti can be contributed to his relationship with the street artist Invader, his cousin. Invader introduced Guetta to such graffiti giants as Banksy and Shepard Fairey. The process of filming exposed Guetta to countless ideas and inspirations for his own work, which he started producing before finishing the film.

Mr. Brainwash’s work includes stencil work, paintings, and sculpture. Guetta’s subject matter categorizes him as a Pop artist. Most critics may negatively associate Mr. Brainwash with Andy Warhol due to his popularized subject matter and method of art making. Rather than traditionally creating the artwork himself, Guetta actually employs numerous artists to carry out the work, while he oversees them. This method is highly reflective of Warhol, and in turn allows more art to be made. Guetta is similar to Warhol in his movement and style. Warhol is known for his repetitive silkscreens, distinguished from each other only through varied arbitrary color. Though not as repetitive, much of Mr. Brainwash work is in this same style. A difference between the two would be how Warhol did not appropriate other artists’ work, rather he just took popular icons to create his own work. The same cannot be said for Mr. Brainwash.

Revolutionary graffiti artist, Banksy, created the documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, which illustrated the initiation and development of Guetta’s artistic career. The 2010 film’s success likely amplified Mr. Brainwash’s already increasing reputation. However, Exit Through the Gift Shop did not paint Mr. Brainwash in a very flattering light. The documentary suggested Mr. Brainwash exploited other artists’ intellectual ideas and styles.

Exit Through the Gift Shop has been received and analyzed in various ways. Some go as far to speculate that Mr. Brainwash is actually a controversial concoction created by street artists Banksy and Shepard Fairey in order to promote their own work. However, these accusations have been apparently disproven. Theories hold that Banksy is himself Mr. Brainwash, because of the similarity in their artistic styles. This idea cannot be completely dismissed considering Banksy’s identity is still unknown.

Let us return to our initial question. Who is Mr. Brainwash? Is he an artistic genius capable of making highly accessible and relatable art? Or is he more so an entrepreneur of sorts, taking advantage of popular culture and ideas in order to turn a profit? Is he an artistic embodiment of popular culture or merely a faux avant-garde icon? I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not to be Brainwashed.

The Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla features local artists that have been influenced by the street and graffiti art scene. More about the artists and their art can be found on the Thumbprint Gallery website. 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, and it is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12-4pm.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Honey, I Blew Up the Art

Typewriter Eraser by Claes Oldenburg
Written by Michael Ashman
Household objects like pencils, thread spools, or forks don’t seem like they’d make for very impressive art objects because we see and use them all the time. But what if a sculptor increased the size of those everyday things to transform them into something larger than life? Not only would it dramatically change their detail and visibility, but it would also change our relationship to them. Walking through a park and noticing a giant paperclip among statues of famous heroes or dignitaries would certainly raise a few eyebrows. These monumental sculptures—that are the right size for giants—seem out of place and make us want to investigate them.

Claes Oldenburg

Claes Oldenburg is one such Pop artist who has continued to reject the traditional models for statues. Instead, he created some very unusual larger-than-life sculptures. “I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something more than sit on its ass in a museum," he once said. Claes Oldenburg saw the significance in common objects as colossal-sized reproductions and worked with commercial items to change their identity. He used unconventional materials to form nonfunctioning facsimiles of objects like his Soft Bathtub (Model)—Ghost Version (1966), a drooping tub made with foam-filled canvas, acrylic paint, pencil, wood, and plaster. He also brought humor to his work by super-sizing things into monumental sculptures like his Typewriter Eraser, Scale X (1999)—a work that pays tribute to a once common tool now replaced by the personal computer and its Delete key. Claes Oldenburg shared with the audience every last detail of the once small things, and being able to examine them makes them more memorable than they once were.

Big Bow by Piper Brett

Piper Brett

In a similar manner, Piper Brett creates monumental sculptures like that of Claes Oldenburg.  Some of her sculptures are recreations of small objects made more meaningful by magnifying and modifying their aspects. She uses her welding and metal fabrication talents to create these unique reproductions. One example is a gigantic gift-wrapping bow with sturdy steel instead of bendable ribbon. Its minimalistic qualities, bold red color and large size, shows us that a even a simple object can capture our attention if it is enlarged. It is a playful reminder to everyone about the holidays, and the way it is made makes it a lasting icon for the viewer.

Pop artists use and repurpose common images in their art to appeal to a wide audience. One can see local art and artists like this at the Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla. There are also a wide selection of prints and other items at the Thumbprint Gallery shop.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Adam Neate: Art Can be Free

Written by Carly Deblock

On the morning of November 15th, Londoners awoke to find 1,000 screen prints created by one of the most prominent street artists scattered around the city. Some on doorsteps, some by trash cans and some on lamp posts. Adam helped to develop the concept of free art.

5,000 Paintings

Adam Neate, born in 1977, is a British painter who has developed into one of the most influential street artists in the world. His experience with art began around age ten, when Adam discovered his passion for graffiti and began to create. He graduated from Suffolk College and then worked as a graphic designer for two years.

In the spare time that he had, Adam would paint on anything and everything that he could get his hands on. Constantly painting on wood and cardboard, Adam was able to gift his artwork to friends and he even began to leave his paintings littered in the streets. This gave any passerby the opportunity to walk away with an original Adam Neate masterpiece. Adam was painting around 1,000 paintings a year during this time, but he avoided the art galleries for 5 years. Congruent with the original concept of street art, Adam prefers to give his art to the streets he came from. He was eventually contacted by a gallery and hosted a solo show that sold out hours after opening. He quickly rose to a stardom status and claimed a huge name in the contemporary art world.

The London Show

Adam Neate’s biggest project to date took place during the night of November 14, 2008. With an anti-high art mentality, Neate placed his art around the city, where anyone was free to claim his signed silk-screen prints. Adam and helpers scattered 1,000 prints of his art, worth over a million dollars, around the streets of London. People around the city woke up to a city-wide art show right on their doorstep. This was after Neate’s work had sold at Sotheby’s for over $100,000. Allowing the whole population of London the opportunity to own one of Neate’s pieces was an enormous project.

Urban Style

Walking into a gallery of Neate’s works teleports the viewer into a world filled with dynamic colors, movement and emotion. He places focus on the creative process as an artist and less on the product. Neate uses brilliant colors, strong lines and diverse compositions to create eye-catching paintings. His work is reminiscent of the bold Basquiat and it is easily spotted in the streets. His three dimensional paintings, overlaying pieces of cardboard, are intense explorations of motion on multiple viewing planes. Adam’s works are also reminiscent of Francis Bacon in the use of vibrant colors and the successful attempts to create dynamic movement through his artwork.

Free Art

Adam Neate finds a literal and poetic way to give artwork back to his urban roots. As he told the Independent, "It is about putting back in what I got out at the beginning of my career". His method brings art away from the galleries and places it into everyone’s hands - what street art initially intended to do. Graffiti and urban art creates a sense of community between the artist and audience; anyone on the street is invited into the art world. Giving art back to where Neate started his career creates a dialogue and encourages other artists to keep creating.

Neate’s message and urban style relate to many of Thumbprint Gallery artists. The gallery is dedicated to displaying the best in contemporary urban and pop surrealist art. You can browse and buy a variety of works at Thumbprint Gallery’s online store here.