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.


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:

New York Times:

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.

Kenzi Shiokava

Kenzi Shiokava won Made in LA 2016’s Mohn Award at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Born in Brazil to Japanese parents, his totem works hold a very personal representation of these two contrasting cultures that form his identity. Shiokava tends to circulate around the techniques of wood carving and assemblage pieces which were both displayed in his showing for this exhibition. Through these elegantly balanced totem pieces one gets a sense of his attention to details to create unnatural forms and shapes from natural and found objects.

Elizabeth Catlett

Elizabeth Catlett was a sculptor and printmaker who aimed to represent the African American community and their history. This piece “Sharecropper” is one of her iconic images and was originally printed in 1952. The contrast of strength and suffering written on the woman’s face tells the story of struggles and overcoming that the black community continually faced at this creation’s time. She also created a series of revolutionary African American women and their efforts towards creating a more just and properly represented society.

Frida & Diego: Pain & Paint

    For those of you that aren’t familiar with the works of the revolutionary minds of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, they are two of the most influential Mexican artists of more recent times. Both painted stories of their culture and history. Although everyone knew their love was true, it was also one of the more complicated relationships in the art world. A romance freckled with affairs, a divorce, a remarriage and several heartbreaking miscarriages. These two often painted incredibly powerful pieces based around the topics of their country, their travels, and their love.

I have been able to see several of Frida Kahlo’s pieces and she stands as one of my favorite artists. Her paintings speak of her suffering caused by an accident that left her with agonizing pains and called for several surgeries throughout her life. She is best known for painting a series of self  portraits, such as the first image which I took a picture of at the MoMA in New York. She has several movingly powerful pieces that tell stories of her identity struggles, personal crippling pains, longing for the past, and even one that depicts one of her miscarriages. A life full of ups and downs has led her to create some of the most personal pieces in the art world.

Diego Rivera is another very famous Mexican artist who was well known for his incredible murals with powerful messages. He too was constantly stuck between the historic aspects of Mexico and the political controversies of the modern world. They both were communists (although they had a few falling outs with the party) and he strongly believed in industrialization. The second image above is one of his charcoals on canvas titled “Huicholes” and was created in 1951. I was able to see it in the LACMA where it hangs next to another Rivera piece which tells the story of his hope in industrialization. I find that to be representational of how he was caught between the two worlds.

Both incredibly influential artists with an intoxicating and passionate love, the story of Frida and Diego is one of many chapters. Their works span across several countries and tell various stories of life, friendship, love, heartbreak, confusion, history and politics. Through their pain and paint they have changed the world.

Kehinde Wiley: Where Art History Meets Modern Culture

Kehinde Wiley is an incredible artist who graduated from Yale School of Art in 2001 and has successfully shown paintings all over the world. Born in America in 1977 he is not only one of our day and age’s most incredible artists, but he pays homage to pieces in art’s history all while adding a modern twist and message. There is no denying this man can paint. His photo-realistic oil paintings are both captivating in construction and thought provoking in composition. I was blessed with the chance to view one in person when I was visiting Seattle, Washington last summer. This particular piece (pictured below) titled “Anthony of Padua” was one of the main highlights of the SAM (Seattle Art Museum) at the time of my visit.

72 × 60 in. (182.9 × 152.4cm)

This flawlessly created oil on canvas painting is a fantastic example of this artist’s work. He is known for how he takes famous painting from Western Art’s history and modifies them with imagery of African American people in their modern street-wear. Though to some this may just seem like a pretty picture, there is so much more behind these pieces. The pieces he chooses as his base to replicate are ones that signify power, wealth, or status among the people of that time. By taking a powerful painting and inserting an everyday African American person, he is sending a message of significant worth. It is a political message of identity and to me helps signify how far we have overcome race issues as a society and yet how much further we have to go. When I view these pieces I feel the strength of the subject radiating from their gaze and it sends me a message of hope for people of all colors. One of my favorite parts about his series of paintings in this style, is that he is known for painting everyday people and he lets them pick their own background pattern. By doing this, he is giving the people who sit for him a gift, he is showing them that they are beautiful and valuable and he is painting them in a way to make them feel empowered. When they show their friends and family the finished product they too will feel inspired and view this person in a new light and the model will know they were a part of something great. I can only imagine the wonderful impact his pieces have had on the community of his models. With so many recent hate crimes in America, I feel it is so important to highlight an artist who is trying to help push his cultural background to a higher level. It is inspiring to all races, and helps keep the art world diverse and alive.

He has a book of his collections titled “Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic” which can be found at Barnes and Noble [ ] for only $31.71 and I would suggest that everyone pick up a copy. His revolutionary mind is helping reshape art and cultural value through his incredible paintings.

You can view several other paintings on his website:

Source Credit: SAM Museum website