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.