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.