Yayoi Kusama: Infinite & Iconic

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There is no denying the captivating and transformative aspects to Yayoi Kusama’s current installation at the Seattle Art Museum “Infinity Mirrors”.  The works displayed here span her 65-year career as a revolutionary Japanese artist showcasing her diversity and creativity. This traveling exhibition consists of paintings, works on paper, sculptural displays and, most notoriously, a series of rooms which visitors walk completely into. These rooms each house various sculptural elements with strategic lighting and walls lined with mirrors. As the exhibition title explains, these mirrors create an illusion which transform the walls into glimpses of an intangible universe through their infinite repetition. Each small group (2-4 people) is allotted a short amount of time (generally 20-60 seconds) in the space. Though this may be a disappointment to some, the time frame was an artistic choice made by Kusama. These quick glimpses into “infinity” allow the illusion to hold up and keep the reactions of visitors cut down to first impressions of each environment. However, visitors are allowed to get back in line outside of the desired room to revisit the space of their choice. One room that stuck with me is titled “Infinity Mirrored Room-Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity” (pictured below). This mirror-lined room is pitch black at moments as several hanging bulbs flicker on and off, illuminating the cascade of doubles caused by the mirrors. Another contagiously fun room was the communally formed “Obliteration Room” (also shown below). Here, each visitor is given a sheet of stickers to place anywhere within the installation. In engaging visitors directly with the art, Kusama is seeing how her work is supporting and encouraging creativity. It is a statement-which can be compared to the metaphor of being a drop in the ocean-we are all dots on a wall, leaving a small mark which when combined with others creates an array of brilliant shades. We are one in a million and also one of a million.

Kusama dangles the concepts of infinity, and the idea of being a part of something universal and larger than ourselves. She claims through her use of dots she is measuring her own place in an infinite universe. These works immerse visitors into alternate realities that feed the imagination and create new worlds within their illusions. Through the various media used, Kusama gives glimpses into the workings of her mind and juxtaposes the ideas of infinity and individual frailty leaving us questioning our place in the universe and yearning to discover more.

Figure 1
“Infinity Mirrored Room-Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity”, 2016, by Yayoi Kusama
Figure 2
Detail of “The Obliteration Room”, 2002-present by Yayoi Kusama

This exhibition also included sculptural works which can be peered into to create another mirrored illusion of a never-ending horizon line. Perhaps what I admire most about these-aside from their sheer creativity of course-is the dire need for them to be experienced in person. Though we often say that about all art, it holds especially true for these works. For example, look at image below:

Figure 3
View inside one of the installations

What exactly are you looking at? How big do you think that room is? Where are the actual walls to it? The mirrors? What if I told you that what you’re looking at is actually not a room at all, but rather the view of a peep hole. It is still hard to envision without experiencing it, and even as it stands before you it leaves you pondering the details. Kusama’s playful works aim to confuse, to cast illusions through this play of perspective, scale, light reflection, color, and pattern. These works toy with our eyes and form a sense of escapism as viewers alter their perspectives and perceptions to absorb them.

Kusama dangles the concepts of infinity, and the idea of being a part of something universal and larger than ourselves. She claims through her use of dots she is measuring her own place in an infinite universe. These works immerse visitors into alternate realities that feed the imagination and create new worlds within their illusions. Through the various media used, Kusama gives glimpses into the workings of her mind and juxtaposes the ideas of infinity and individual frailty leaving us questioning our place in the universe and yearning to discover more.

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All photos courtesy of Seattle-based photographer Connor Surdi. To view more of his work please visit his website at www.connorsurdi.com

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The Seattle Art Museum, locate in the heart of Seattle, is displaying this exhibition until September 10th. Tickets are sold on a first-come first-serve basis, so be sure to get there early to get in line. We waited for about an hour and a half (one hour of that was waiting before the museum opened) and easily got our tickets for the 12:15 time slot. This allowed us enough time to explore the rest of the museum before getting in line for the special exhibit. Once inside, there is no time limit to how long you explore the installations. The next stop for this exhibition is The Broad museum in Downtown Los Angeles and their ticket sales start on September 1st for $25 each. Worth the wait and worth experiencing don’t miss out on the chance to see this for yourself!

 

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Andrea Bowers: Pipelines and Neon Signs

Andrea Bowers is passionate about creating art with powerful messages. Over the span of her career she has utilized her artistic platform as a means to create awareness on current societal issues. Her current display at the Hammer Museum in Westwood (Los Angeles), does just that through its activist stance against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Consisting of a mural, blinking neon signs and interactive take-home ribbons (yes, for once you can touch and take home part of an exhibition!) this installation spans three walls along and near the stairs of the lobby entrance. It will be on view until July 16th!

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The Hammer museum is free and open to the public Tues-Fri 11-8 and Sat & Sun 11-5

For more info please visit: https://hammer.ucla.edu/exhibitions/2017/hammer-projects-andrea-bowers/

 

Fowler’s Fabrics: African-Print Exhibition

The Fowler Museum is alive with the colors and culture of African-print textiles. African-prints are distinct yet diverse with a rich global history. This exhibition showcases the far reach these fabrics have had and continue to have. The designs we commonly see today in Africa have traveled through time and across countries before landing as an identifier of that region. Fowler points to the patterns beginning in India in the 4th century CE, then by the 11th century Indonesia picked up on it, and by the 19th century Dutch and British manufacturers began making them and very successfully marketing them to African countries (primarily West Africa). Since then several African countries-such as Ghana and Cameroon-have identified with these fabrics and the outfits they form represent an important communal collaboration between the consumer and seamstress. Though the patterns are often repeated, they represent a sense of uniqueness and sense of identity to those who wear them.

Aside from the background information and exemplifying displays, this exhibition really aims to incorporate modern shifts in the intertwining cultures. This helps showcase how the iconic designs have now reached beyond clothes the everyday person would wear and have spread to the high fashion and street wear design world. These displays point to the evolution of patterns as they continue to travel through media, advertisement, and art. Iconic to Africa, there is no denying the life these clothes have had and bring to those who view them.

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This exhibition is open until July 30, 2017.

 

The Fowler Museum is a free admission museum located on the UCLA campus at: 

308 Charles E Young Dr E, Los Angeles, CA 90024

Their hours are: Wednesday 12-8 and Thursday through Sunday 12-5.

Kevin Beasley: Creating Contemporary Histories 


Kevin Beasley’s installation at the Hammer museum (pictured above) closes this weekend! Beasley is a renowned artist primarily working in sculpture and performance art through sound installations. This artwork utilizes resin and found objects he manipulated to create haunting and mysterious human-like figures. Inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the iconic Black Panthers’ chair photography (see both below). Much like this piece, Beasley’s works often pull from personal expenses as well as historic references. He considers the way the artwork will be viewed as part of the sculpture itself and this is especially evident in this work which takes advantage of the vault-shaped gallery of the room at Hammer. As a long-time musician Beasley also has done a series of performances and sound installations. One is TONIGHT, Saturday April 22nd, at the El Dorado Ballroom in Houston Texas.

Above: St. John’s Basilica in Rome which inspired his work at the Hammer due to gallery’s vault-like shape.


Above: Black Panthers’ founder Huey P Newton in the chair that inspired the work currently on view at the Hammer Museum.

Losing a Legend: Barkley Hendricks 1945-2017


Legendary artist Barkley L Hendricks passed away yesterday morning at the age of 72. Best known for his oil paintings depicting black urban culture, his work has reached many styles and genres over his lifespan. Working in painting, film, fashion, and photography he often depicted friends and family and drew awareness to the beauty of African American culture and movements. His influence on other artists such as Kehinde Wiley is undeniable and admirable. Thank you for your artistic contributions and inspirations. 1945-2017

The first image shown above is a self-portrait from 1977 titled Slick.


Above: Lawdy Mama, 1969, oil and gold leaf on linen canvas


Above: Blood (Donald Formey), 1975, oil and acrylic on cotton canvas


Above: Family Jules: NNN (No Naked Niggahs), 1974, oil on linen


Above: October’s Gone…Goodnight, 1973, oil and acrylic on linen canvas


Photo of Hendricks from the Jack Shainman gallery.

Albrecht Dürer’s Easter Bunny 


Whether we believe in the Easter Bunny or not we can all appreciate this piece, titled Young Hare, which was made in 1502 by the German painter and printmaker Albrecht Dürer using watercolor painting techniques. Dürer was working during the time of the Renaissance period and himself was a Renaissance man working in the arts as well as writing, drafting, and philosophy. Born to a goldsmith he trained under his father along with a local popular printmaking studio. He worked for the Holy Roman Emperors, Maximilian I and Charles V as their official court artists. His works range from nature studies, such as this one, to religious works and self portraits, such as the one shown below. Today we celebrate his hard work and genius that continues to influence artists today.

Judy Chicago: The Start of the Feminist Art Movement 

Judy Chicago was one of the pioneers for the feminist art movement. Throughout her career she has been working to bring issues women are facing to the forefront of art world and get conversations for improvement going. Born in Chicago, she started taking art classes in preschool and continued to pursue them, eventually graduating from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) with a Masters in painting and sculpture. In the Spring of 1970 she began teaching a women-only art class at Fresno State College which she referred to as the “Feminist Art Program”. A class-made up of 15 women-renovated an old theater as their studio where they performed and created activist works of art. In 1972 Chicago paired with Cal Arts to create Womanhouse in Hollywood, California. Another platform for creative ways to voice their societal concerns, Womanhouse received publicity and helped to push the feminist art movement forward. Despite her love for teaching, Chicago’s art was still her primary passion and she eventually left her faculty position to devote herself to creating.


Perhaps one of her best known projects is The Dinner Party (shown above). This massive triangular table consists of 39 place settings, each dedicated to an important woman in history. The place settings are themed to the contribution of the woman listed, and includes embroidered banners as well as ceramics. Along the tile floor below the table there are a series of 999 other names painted in gold. Inspired by a professor who claimed women never made historical contributions, this artwork confronts the viewer with proof of the falsity of his statement. It was conceived with the help of over 400 volunteers and still inspires people to create their own place settings of women they feel should be included in this honorary work. Through depictions of female genitalia in various forms, she takes what is commonly unspoken of (especially at its time of creation) and makes it unavoidable. This artwork promotes a sense of pride for women and showcases how much we have accomplished throughout time.

Detail images of various place settings for The Dinner Party:


Chicago has been involved in/created several other projects throughout her still blossoming career. Her next artwork, a dry ice installation, will be installed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MoMA) on April 26th.


Sources:

http://www.judychicago.com/

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/dinner_party

Immigration, Illustration & Innovation: How Tyrus Wong’s Chinese Culture Influenced Disney’s “Bambi” 

Tyrus Wong was best known for his innovative artistic contributions to the classic Disney film Bambi. Born in China, he traveled to Angel Island off the San Francisco coast to try to gain entry into the United States when he was 10 years old. After starting school in America he eventually got into Otis College as their youngest student, and he worked and studied there for five years. When he heard of a calling from Disney for help with the production of the Bambi film, he knew his skills as a landscape painter could be put to work. Intertwining his cultural background into his work, Wong’s landscapes pulled inspiration from the Song Dynasty and calligraphy pieces. A close examination of the backgrounds used throughout the film showcases how Wong created the feel of quick and calculated brushstrokes to create a more blurred background which contrasted well with the characters to allow them to stand out amongst the forestation. It was said that Wong’s artwork was not only the focus of every drawn-up scene in the movie, but it also influenced the choice of music and special effects. Having struggled with racism his whole life as an Asian-American, he did not receive real credit for his artistic abilities until he was in his 90s. In his later years Wong created designs for Hallmark cards, dinner plates, and even created imaginative kites. He died in December 2016 at the age of 106. 



His work is being honored at an event coordinated in part by the Walt Disney Family Museum coming up on May 18th at the Presidio in San Francisco. Tickets can be reserved online at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/presidio-dialogues-tyrus-wong-a-celebration-tickets-33232003818
Sources:

New York Times: https://nyti.ms/2iOjHsg

Jimmie Durham: Art & Activism

Commonly known as an art activist for the Indigenous peoples of America, Jimmie Durham uses his creativity and cultural background to speak out against the oppression of his people. His works shown here use a wide array of materials-most notably real skulls-to create various assemblage sculptures. Inventive and often a bit bizarre-seeming, his works tend to utilize destruction in order for their creation. From a smashed refrigerator, to a human skull, to a paper with his blood smeared on it, Durham is not shy about his processes and proclamations.  A retrospective of Jimmie Durham’s work is now on display until May 7th at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Many of the works shown in this exhibition were rediscovered by curator Anne Ellegood upon digging through Durham’s archives and storage for this show. Still relevant to the struggles Indigenous peoples face today, this retrospective of his work is bringing him back into the American art scene and helping revive his messages.

Hammer Museum: 10899 Wilshire Blvd., (Westwood) Los Angeles, 90024

Admission: Always free

Hours: T-F from 11-8 and Sat & Sun from 11-5

Above: the back side of Tlunh Datsi from 1984

The back of the puma skull featured in the front center of the first picture. Note the use of varying materials and the inventive restructuring of everyday items.

Human skull (top left and bottom picture) and baby buffalo skull (top right) in combination with several other common Native American materials (such as turquoise, beads, feathers, and shells)

Above: Karankawa from 1982

Pictured above and below: New York Gitli from 1984

All photos were taken by me at the Hammer Museum’s exhibition “Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World” which was brought together by Anne Ellegood, senior curator, and MacKenzie Stevens, curatorial assistant.