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September 9, 2014
You know, when I sit to write these blogs, I consider myself insanely lucky! As I get to write and recall all of the inspirations that so make my world what it is. In continuing with my love of California abstract Expressionists, I bring to you today Nathan Oliveira. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you each day.
(Nathan Oliveira passed away on November 13, 2010.)
For more than 30 years, internationally recognized painter Nathan Oliveira occupied a serene studio nestled in the foothills above Stanford University, where he taught for decades. Spark visited Oliveira where he created some of his most famous works.
Oliveira is well-known as a major painter associated with a group of artists called the Bay Area Figurative School. Taking a cue from the abstract expressionist style that characterized East Coast painting in the postwar period, Oliveira and others used a thick, painterly style,
but used it to represent rough, abstracted figures and landscapes.
Over the last 20 years, Oliveira had intermittently worked on “The Windover,” a series of paintings named for a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The canvases, which depict abstract forms recalling wings, were inspired by the red-tailed hawks living in the foothills that surround Oliveira’s studio.
In an effort to keep the series of nearly
20 paintings together as a group, Oliveira had been meeting with Stanford officials to create a quiet space somewhere in the foothills to house “The Windover” and be designed as a peaceful refuge where visitors can go to meditate and collect their thoughts.
Nathan Oliveira earned a B.A. in 1951 and an M.F.A. in 1952 from the California College of Arts and Crafts (now known as the California College of the Arts).
Oliveira received critical recognition early on in his career for emotionally charged paintings that are an attempt, in the artist’s words, to “make a spiritual contribution.”1 His main artistic preoccupation throughout his oeuvre has been the depiction of a solitary figure,
usually female, and often wraithlike, emerging from an atmospheric and
undefined space. In the early 1960s, Oliveira’s palette shifted and he began to incorporate more vibrant colors. His subject matter, however, remained the same. The influence of Northern European expressionism, such as Edvard Munch and Max Beckmann, with whom Oliveira
studied at Mills College, Oakland, in 1950, is evidenced in his work
as is the portraiture of Rembrandt and the attenuated female figurative sculptures of Giacommetti.
Oliveira’s graphic achievements have established him as a major figure in American printmaking. His innovative work in lithography and monotype has been compared to that of Goya, Picasso, Edvard Munch, and Eugène Carrière, and he has created procedural standards
that artists continue to follow today.2 In the 1980s, also Oliveira began
working with sculpture, creating works that draw inspiration from Pre-Columbian iconography to 20th-century modern works, most notably those of Giacommetti.
July 10, 2014
Ettore Sottsass is one of my all time favorite designers! He is credited with the style known as memphis, and his designs and jewelry were fantastic!
I hope you enjoy this post! Love, Jamie
Ettore Sottass worked as a design consultant for Olivetti from 1958 to 1980, creating the Elea 9003 calculator and the popular portable red typewriter, released on Valentine’s Day in 1969. Mr. Sottsass referred
to his typewriter as the “anti-machine machine.” Its features included a carriage that dropped to the level of the keyboard and a storage case, though it was the color that made it memorable.
“Every color has a history,” Mr. Sottsass said two years ago. “Red is the color of the Communist flag, the color that makes a surgeon move faster and the color of passion.”
In the 1970s, Alessi hired Mr. Sottsass, who designed various items for the company, like ice condiment sets, soup plates and coasters. He also designed a decanter for Baccarat; a chair for Knoll; and
carpet for Namastre.
In the 1980s, Mr. Sottsass was one of the founders and the leading figure of Memphis, the Milan design group famous for brightly colored postmodern furniture, lighting and ceramics. Its collection includes
glassworks, and large sculptural cabinets made of acrylic, aluminum and tropical wood.
July 8, 2014
My love of photography and introducing you to artists as such continues today with Arthur Siegel. His photographs are etherial and serene.
I hope you enjoy this post!
Arthur Siegel was an American photographer known for his intricate photographs and graphic documentary photography.
He introduced creative ways of back-lighting and projection to achieve abstract, often ethereal forms also experimenting with variations in colour both in these
and his more documentary images.
The simplicity and conceptual nature ofh is photographs encourage the viewer to explore the singular characteristics of photography as a medium based on the transference of light.
July 3, 2014
Tony Rosenthal was among the most amazing public sculptors that ever lived. His work, most of us have seen in person and adore. I hope you enjoy this post! Love,
In sheer visibility, Mr. Rosenthal occupied a leading place among contemporary artists. His five works of public sculpture in Manhattan, and dozens of similar works in Los Angeles,Philadelphia and other cities, guaranteed him a vast audience every week, yet he remained, if not obscure, much less than famous.
He was best known for “Alamo,” familiarly called “The Cube” and a neighborhood favorite since it was installed in 1967 as part of the city’s
“Sculpture in Environment” program. All 25 works in the program were intended to be temporary installations, but after residents in the Astor Place area petitioned the city, “Alamo” stayed.
A 15-foot-square cube, made of Cor-Ten steel plates, it stands on one point and revolves on a pedestal, which has endeared it to students at nearbyCooper Union, skateboarders who rally around it and East Village tourists
Mr. Rosenthal is also represented in Manhattan by “Rondo”
(1969), the gleaming bronze circle in front of the New york Public Library’s branch on East 58th Street; “5 in 1” (1973) at
Police Plaza; “SteelPark” (1980) at 80th Street near First Avenue; and “Hammarskjold,” originally installed at Hammarskjold Plaza in 1977 but acquired the next year by the Fashion Institute of technology on Seventh Avenue at 27th Street.
July 1, 2014
Man Ray was one of the artists to be considered the embodiment of surrealism! There used to be a famous bar/hangout on 26th and Sixth in
the City called man Ray! Fond memories, less I digress! I hope you enjoy this post and my trail of thinking on Surrealism! Have a wonderful day!
Man Ray, the master of experimental and fashion photography was also a painter, a filmmaker, a poet, an essayist, a philosopher, and a leader of American modernism.
Known for documenting the cultural elite living in France, Man Ray spent much of his time fighting the formal constraints of the visual arts. Ray’s life and art were always
provocative, engaging, and challenging.
Born Emanuel Rabinovitch in 1890, Man Ray spent most of his young life in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The eldest child of an immigrant Jewish tailor, he was a mediocre student
who shunned college for the bohemian artistic life in nearby Manhattan. In New York he began to work as an artist, meeting many of the most important figures of the time.
He learned the rudiments of photography from the art dealer and photographer, Alfred Steiglitz and began to experiment on his own.
In 1914, Man Ray married the Belgian poet, Adon Lacroix, and soon after met the experimental artist Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp was to be one of Man Ray’s greatest influences
as well as a close friend and collaborator. Together the two attempted to bring some of the verve of the European experimental art movements to America. The most energetic of these
movements was “dada.” Dada was an attempt to create work so absurd it confused the viewer’s sense of reality. The dadaists would take everyday objects and present them as if they
were finished works of art. For Man Ray, dada’s experimentation was no match for the wild and chaotic streets of New York, and he wrote “Dada cannot live in New York. All New York
is dada, and will not tolerate a rival.”
June 26, 2014
I was introduced to the work of German artist FRIEDRICH KUNATH and fell in love with the pathos. Yes, abstract is always my art of choice, but this is more like installation surrealism. Very interesting. His points of view are very much graphically done and really great to look at. Its not the type of art where you can compare to say,
Sargent, each art medium is fantastic in its own way. What I appreciate most is his ability to capture an honest emotion and not be afraid to just tackle it. No blurring of lines so to speak!
Encompassing painting, sculpture, drawing, video and photography, Kunath’s work focuses on universal themes of the human condition: love, loss, loneliness, optimism and dejection, all imparted with a tragicomic pathos.
Kunath’s work draws inspiration from sources such as song titles, lyrics and books, along with art historical influences, including Conceptual art, German Romanticism and Symbolism. His paintings, which freely bestride the idioms of abstraction and representation, are saturated with washes of colour, which are then overlaid with diverse visual references,
from satirical cartoons, doodles and chocolate-box imagery to passages of text with nuanced word-play. ‘All the sleeves are brown and the tie is grey (California Dreaming)’ (2011) features a sleeping figure sat aboard a ramshackle raft, caught up in a ferocious sea; while above him is written a contorted version of the chorus from the song of the title.
In another painting, the hunched figure of the artist trudges into a psychedelic, waterlogged landscape, with droplets of rain in the air clearing in part to reveal the cheerful message ‘Almost Summer’. The lone protagonist makes regular appearances in Kunath’s work, the melancholic ‘everyman’, full of longing for home.
Kunath relocated a number of years ago from his native Germany to Los Angeles, and the tropes of Californian counter-culture provides source material for works such as ‘Pet Shop Sounds’ (2011), in which the Beach Boys seminal album morphs into a pair of bickering love birds. ‘I saw God’s shadow on this world’ (2011), features an expressionistic
backdrop that doubles as a parched desert landscape complete with cacti providing shade and respite from the brutal sun. As Kunath himself has noted, his new surroundings have influenced the work: ‘I guess the colours got brighter and the topics got darker. Sunshine and Noir’.
Friedrich Kunath was born in Chemnitz, Germany in 1974 and lives in Los Angeles. He has exhibited widely including solo exhibitions at Aspen Art Museum (2008), Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (2009), Kunstverein Hannover (2009) and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2010). Group exhibitions include ‘Human Nature’, Los Angeles
County Museum of Art (2011), ‘Life on Mars: the 55th Carnegie International’, Pittsburgh (2008), ’11th Triennale für Kleinplastik’, Fellbach, Germany (2010) and will exhibit in ‘The World is Yours’, Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2011).
June 24, 2014
I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Lucas’s work in person. WOW! His life is fascinating, as most of the artists that I love to write about, I do hope you enjoy learning about him.
Have a great day!
Lucas Samaras is not the best-known artist in America, but among the cognoscenti he is considered a wizard, and among artists he’s an elusive legend: a loner, eccentric, master of unusual media, and visionary who has avoided
classification. He’s a solitary worker who has remained outside of movements, trends, or cliques, making work that is always original, provocative, and
surprising. Samaras stands out from the crowd in part because he tends to
work with unique subject matter—himself. He has interviewed himself, photographed himself, sculpted himself, and decorated himself and, in doing so, he has always seemed to be a work in progress. Samaras is not necessarily
a narcissist, even though one of his retrospectives was titled “Unrepentant Ego.” He is an intrepid self-investigator and he has made a career out of mutating his own image and likeness.
Samaras was born in Greece in 1936 and immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 11. He won a scholarship to study art at Rutgers University, enrolling in 1955, at a time when the Rutgers art department
was a hotbed of innovation, with a faculty that included Alan Kaprow, who organized the first Happenings, and Geoffrey Hendricks, who, along withKaprow, George Segal, Roy Lichtenstein, and students like Robert Whitman,
was instrumental in the Fluxus movement. Upon graduation, Samaras received a fellowship to attend Columbia University’s graduate department of art history, which afforded him the chance to get involved with New York City’s
burgeoning Happenings scene, where he met artists such as Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, and Red Grooms. His interest in performance also led him to study acting with Stella Adler.
June 17, 2014
The artwork of Yoshitomo Nara is deceptively simple. Peopled with entities that call to mind toddlers or infant animals with their balloon heads, persimmon pit-eyes, and pinprick noses, each work is a peek into a world that seems eerily familiar.
A long-term resident of Cologne, Nara is being met with increasing international attention, having already exhibited in Milwaukee, L.A., Cologne and Seoul and New York
With a couple of books both in their second run, a limited edition wristwatch and a clothing line that incorporates motifs from his artwork, Nara is well on his way to developing a cult following in Japan.
In the drawings, children are engaging in innocuous solo activities: holding a flag, playing in a box, sitting on a potty, holding a book, standing in a puddle. But sometimes they are brandishing sharp little implements–knives and saws. Nara captures these scenes in a moment of stillness.
The enigmatic, abbreviated quality of Nara’s style may be an invitation for you to take your best sub textural potshot. But take care. In doing so, you risk revealing a lot about you, more than might be comfortable. Nara’s artworks are sticky-sweet booby traps, Rorschach tests for a post-modern innocence quotient. They are candy-cane puzzles begging to be deciphered, only to reveal the cavities inside our own grown-up hearts.
June 12, 2014
I am so in love with this landscape architect! His work speaks to me, it is elegant and formal and haute casual at the same time!
I also wanted to say Thanks for all the lovely emails regarding the blogs! I am so flattered that you are enjoying all the topics I love!
I wanted to answer why there is no comment form on the blog, deliberately by me, as I don’t write the blogs to secure responses. I write them ,as I think it is so wonderful, the world we live in and the beauty it has to offer. So I feel my small contribution each day is to bring you a bit of beauty.
Thanks so much, to all of you for taking the time to read my thoughts.
Since 1997 Luciano Giubbilei has been creating serenely beautiful gardens in locations on three continents. Giubbilei is known for the understated elegance of his designs, but is constantly evolving his approach, both in response to individual
clients and as his ideas develop. His work draws on his Italian heritage, especially the Renaissance gardens of the Villa Gamberaia in Tuscany, and a distinctively classical combination of restraint and opulent materials.
Giubbilei’s approach is a modern take on that Renaissance formality. “I like a strong axis, projecting the lines of the house out into the garden.” The elements are traditional: the green “room”, with its rectangular carpet of grass, framed by hedges and trees,
and decorated with architectural objects. The contemporary feel comes from his use of such things as woven willow panels, fastigiate hornbeams, timber decking and the simple, unadorned shapes of modern furniture, pots and plinths.
“I try to make everything beautiful at night – trees and pots picked out with uplighters.”
“But my gardens are really installations. I would not want you to compare what I do to an English flower garden, where there is such understanding of nature. This is different and has a different function, and the results can be quite instant.”
Have a great day!
June 10, 2014
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Chilean-born artist Roberto Matta was an international figure whose worldview represented a synthesis of European, American and Latin American cultures. As a member of the Surrealist movement and an early mentor to several Abstract Expressionists, Matta broke with both groups to pursue a highly personal artistic vision. His mature work blended abstraction, figuration and multi-dimensional spaces into complex, cosmic landscapes. Matta’s long and prolific career was defined by a strong social conscience and an intense exploration of the his internal and external worlds.
I have always been a fan of MATTA’S work. It is a bit phantom and very, sometimes eerie, but i love his sense of style and where the thoughts came from. I do hope you enjoy this post!
Matta’s earliest works were abstract crayon drawings produced using the Surrealist practice of automatism. In these drawings, he referenced organic growth patterns, microscopic views of plants and the non-Euclidean geometry described by mathematician Jules Henri Poincare. Matta transitioned from drawing to oil painting in 1938, while working in Brittany with the British artist Gordon Onslow Ford. The works that Matta created around this time were the first of what he called his “Psychological Morphologies”. In these paintings, Mata explored his subconscious mind through a language of abstract forms and constantly evolving,
multi-dimensional spaces. Matta also referred to these works as “Inscapes”, with the implication that they depicted the interior landscape of the artist’s mind, interconnected with his external reality.
Matta was well established within the Surrealist group by the time that he was forced to flee Europe for America in the fall of 1939. When Matta arrived in New York City, he was the youngest and most outgoing of Surrealist emigres. These traits, combined with a shared interest in automatist
art-making techniques, allowed Matta to quickly form relationships with several of the young New York School artists. Throughout the first half of the 1940s, Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, William Baziotes, Peter Busa, Robert Motherwell and others met frequently with Matta to learn about
his personal ideas about Surrealism.
In the mid-1940s, Matta’s work changed dramatically. Responding to the continuing horrors of the Second World War, Matta expanded his artistic interests beyond his exploration of the subconscious mind. He moved towards a more active engagement with the world in a series of works that he called
“Social Morphologies”. Many of Matta’s paintings from this period incorporate strangely menacing, machine-like contraptions and totemic human forms. He pitted these elements against each other in seemingly constant battle within a landscape of amorphous spaces and vaguely architectural planes.
These works have a new emotional immediacy, reverberating with a formal tension created by the often violently oppositional forms.