Artist Interview: Kevin Brewerton!

By abstract art, art, Art Events, New Artists, The Venice Art CrawlNo Comments

Hey Crawlers!

With the new month of February we introduce to you another Artist, Kevin Brewerton!  This post is very special because it happens to be that Kevin is having an art show this weekend as well! (INFO) Get to know Kevin with the VAC and then hit up his show later this weekend! 


DSC_67191. Who are you and what do you do?

I am a visual, performing, and martial artist. I create art.  

2. In your words how would you define art? 

I am an expressionist in all forms. Although I don’t usually like to put myself in a category, as I prefer to have the freedom to explore without a label. That being said I do find myself gravitating to Abstract Expressionism. 

3. How did your relationship with art start?

Growing up I never knew the value of art. I was raised to believe that art was ornately framed pictures that hung on the walls of those who were rich.  Quite a beginning. As a teenager I didn’t like art. It confused me. I was much more interested in physical sports and dreaming about becoming a famous martial artist like Bruce Lee. Fortunately I was able to realize that goal by winning 5 world kickboxing championships. 

Studio_94. At what age did you realize that you were creatively talented?

That’s a tough question because at an early age I think that we just “do” without being conscious of what we are doing. But I can always remember sitting in class rooms in England, maybe 8th grade, doodling shapes and patterns on my work books. (I don’t think my teachers appreciated it)  But I think I’ve always been sketching and drawing shapes. Perhaps it was an unconscious yearning to paint. I suppose that feeling kept growing. When I’d moved to London to pursue a career as a fighter, from time to time I’d find myself leaving the gym after working out and ending up wandering around the Tate Gallery in my sweat suit. I’d be mesmerized by Turner’s land and seascapes or I would find myself both offended and intrigued by art that I just couldn’t understand. Why would anyone pay so much money for that? I remember thinking, pointing at a plain blue canvas- I think it must have been an Yves Kline!

5. What materials/paints do you generally work with?

Mostly acrylic and oil. However, I do like to experiment with different mediums. Tar is a very raw entity. I like the dense quality it brings. 

6. What art do you most identify with?

Any art that tells a story, Viscerally. I’m looking at art all of the time. Art that I can connect with. Art that is personal. Everything is art. Look around and it’s all art. The world is art. 


5th element (final)7. Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

I’m fortunate to have had a lot of inspiring moments. However, one that particularly stands out was about 3 years ago when I received an e mail from a lady who was telling me that she and her husband had found my art. Her husband was also a painter, but had not painted in some years because he was virtually blind. She told me that they had studied a particular piece that I had painted, called, Unyielding, on their computer over and over. Because they were able to see the texture and thick brush strokes on the computer, the husband was able to see the art and and become inspired by it which led him to start painting again. They were writing to thank me. 

8. What is your artistic outlook on life?

I believe that art can change a persons life. I believe that art is the great mirror of humanity. I believe that art can be serious and intense, but also funny and ridiculous.

9. What superpower would you have and why?

I’d like to be able to fly. I don’t like the traffic in LA.

Screen shot 2014-02-05 at 10.28.01 AM10. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

I like where I live in Los Angeles. It has become one of the great art capitals of the world. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t find me in Berlin or Barcelona. I believe they are also great places to create art. 

11. Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.

I wouldn’t want to sound obnoxious by comparing myself to certain artists. But I will tell you who I admire and whose influence I hope shows up in my work from time to time. 1. Picasso – for his ingenuity and for thinking in a different way. 2. Franz Klein- for his raw abstract presence on canvas. 3. Milton Katselas for encouraging me to take risks and dare to be an artist.

12. WHAT is your ‘method’? 

My method is no method, anything that works!  

Self_Portrait13.  What is your preferred subject and why?

I don’t have a preferred subject, however I do find myself returning to the fighter, now and again.  As a teenager I was formed through the kiln of a competition fighter- martial artist and boxing. Those themes keep showing up in my art in one way or another.


14. What’s the best thing about being an artist? 

leaving my mark in the world.  Knowing that I can have a  piece of art hanging in Hong Kong, Europe or a suburb in Pennsylvania. Knowing that I can be effecting someone at this very minute and making an impact on there lives. It gives me a sense of being timeless and universal.

15. What’s the worst thing about being an artist?

Cleaning the oil paint of my hands. 

16. What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Create. Don’t let anything stop you. There is no right way or wrong way. Art can be anything. Say what you want to say. Have a point of view.


Check out more of Kevin’s artwork at his website http://kevinbrewerton.com !!  



Interviewed by: Nicole Muyingo




The Daily Dose!

By art, Mural, Picture of the day, The Daily Dose, The Venice Art CrawlNo Comments

April 1971 -   "A whole house for a canvas: Mrs. Lajosne Vargacz sits before a bedroom mural painted with the help of her neighbors at Kalocsa. Such folk art, once common in the region, today has few practitioners. Cane-and-feather duster resembles the long-handled paint brushes the artists used to decorate hard-to-reach heights." Via Sara Gossett

Lajosne Vargacz, April 1971  

“A whole house for a canvas: Mrs. Lajosne Vargacz sits before a bedroom mural painted with the help of her neighbors at Kalocsa. Such folk art, once common in the region, today has few practitioners. Cane-and-feather duster resembles the long-handled paint brushes the artists used to decorate hard-to-reach heights.”

Blogged by: Gabrielle Wooden


Gabrielle Wooden is a writer currently residing in Southern California. Currently she is a blogger for the Venice Art Crawl and is working on her first novel entitled Blue Barcelona at UCLA’S Extension Writers Program.

Venice Story : MX Farina : A Venice Artist

By art, art news, interview, New Artists, The Venice Art Crawl, venice videosNo Comments

‘Venice Story’ is a new storytelling project dedicated to finding, capturing and sharing the stories and thoughts of every day Venetians.

Check out this video of our previously interviewed artist, Mark ‘MX’ Farina, as he talks a little about being an artist in Venice!


What makes Venice special to you? Do you have an interesting, funny or poignant story about your time living, working or visiting Venice? Please email : story@venicestory.org

Blogged by: Gabrielle Wooden


Gabrielle Wooden is a writer currently residing in Southern California. Currently she is a blogger for the Venice Art Crawl and is working on her first novel entitled Blue Barcelona at UCLA’S Extension Writers Program



VAC Artist Interview: Matt Warren

By art, art news, interview, New Artists, The Venice Art CrawlNo Comments

 VAC  Board Member, Nicole Muyingo, interviews Venice Based artist Matt Warren! Find out what real life experience inspired Matt to become a dedicated artist.


3913920_orig1. Who are you and what do you do?

Matt Warren. Artist.

2. In your words how would you define art?

I see art as being the expression of an idea. Something that inspires people and makes them think. Good art should raise questions and create a dialogue about the subject matter.

3. At what age did you realize that you were creatively talented?

I’ve always been interested in art and creating things. As long as I can remember, I would be drawing or making something. I guess I got seriously into art when I was in High School, and was lucky to get accepted onto a Fine Arts course at University without an interview whilst traveling on my Gap Year – and from there I’ve never really looked back.

1085053_orig4. What’s your background?

I was born in Guernsey, an Island of the coast of England.  I studied my Undergraduate degree at UWE in Bristol, UK, and followed that by studying my Masters at OTIS College in Los Angeles. I’ve worked in the film industry between traveling and lived in Beijing for a few months while on an Artist Residency Program. I’m currently living and producing art in Los Angeles.

5. What materials/paints do you generally work with? 

I work with whatever the project entails – the materials that best help convey what I’m trying to say in the work. I’m a bit of an all rounder, but currently I’m working a lot in pencil.

2136755_orig6. What art do you most identify with?

 Anything that has more to it than to just look pretty.

7. Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

The story of Christopher McCandless, on which the film ‘Into the Wild’ was based, was the catalyst for a project of mine. I was looking at the myth of the cowboy, and how the idea we have of this character doesn’t really exist, but is just a representation we have forced on us through the movies. 

For the project I rented a horse, borrowed a rifle and a .44 Magnum from a friend and headed out into the Montana wilderness for 2 weeks in an earnest gesture of reliving this stereotype while critiquing the representation of the cowboy we observe in American Pop Culture. I’d been toying with the idea for a while, but
McCandless’s story encouraged me to go ahead with the project, despite the risks, and make it a reality rather than an idea.

 8. What is an artistic outlook on life?

It’s such a big part of my daily process that it’s hard to sum up.

It is a way of life, an action rather than a thing. It is a form of freedom and individuality, and a way of thinking. It’s a commitment to make time to create – you get out of it what you put in.  It’s a great form of expression and provides the ability to show people literally what you think, allowing a glimpse of what is in your mind. I feel fortunate to have a focus, which directs my career, something I am passionate about that allows me to travel and explore, meet people, and evolve doing what I enjoy.

3713772_orig9. What superpower would you have and why?

My first trip to A &E as a child was due to falling and smacking my eye on an exposed floor beam whilst exploring a house that was under construction. My second was falling through my neighbors’ roof whilst jumping on the skylight. As I’ve grown up my thirst for adventure hasn’t diminished, so I think having Spiderman’s superpowers would be a good thing for me.

10. Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.

Bas Jan Ader is an artistic hero of mine. He was a Danish artist living in Los Angeles, who, in a romantic gesture, attempted to sail single –handed cross the Atlantic in a 13ft sailing boat.  What was supposed to be a performance piece, ended when his boat was found off the coast of Ireland, and his body was never recovered.  477065_origHis romantic take on conceptualism really inspires me, as well as how he saw art as a literal and metaphorical journey – a process of discovery. Other artists that I can’t really compare myself to but look to for inspiration are Chris Burden and Allan Kaprow.

11. WHAT is your ‘method’? 

I work with many different mediums – pencil, paint, video, installation, or whatever is at hand depending on the best way to explore the subject matter. I start with the idea, and then decide what is the best-suited method and material to use to convey that. This contrast can be seen from project to project – a series of painstakingly rendered pencil drawings, compared to a Saloon Bar made out of cardboard and duck tape.

12. What is your preferred subject and why?

As an English citizen living in Los Angeles, my art practice explores methods of representation stemming from 5729124_origAmerican popular culture, which I express through drawing, sculpture and performative strategies. Los Angeles is fitting as I explore subjects and themes related to film, Hollywood and celebrity culture. My perspective on America is enhanced through living in the environment of my investigation and production.

13. What’s the best thing about being an artist? 

Having the opportunity to experience life as much as I can, using art as a means of production to enable myself to do that. Being able to do something I love, and building a career out of it, the freedom it offers, and getting to know and interact with other artists and creative souls.

14. What’s the worst thing about being an artist?

7178187_origNot having a steady income.

15. What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Keep on trekking. Like anything, you have to want to do it. If you’re interested in art, there is always an opportunity – you just have to find it, and be willing to try. My motto is ‘Quitters never win. Winners never quit’, which I have to remind myself often. It’s black or white. You do or you don’t.  There is always an opportunity if you want something badly enough, it’s just a matter of finding it. It might take a while to succeed, but it’s when you stop trying that you fail. You have to just do it.


All art work on this page is done my Matt Warren. Prints also available online.

Interviewed and compiled by Nicole Muyingo.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 2.25.38 AM

instragram – theexiledelite
twitter – theexiledelite







Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 3.03.47 AMNicole Muyingo is originally from London, England and currently resides in Venice Beach, California. Nicole has curated and successfully produced many events and exhibitions in Europe and Los Angeles. Her focus is to get people networking and to deliver fun and impactful events in the world of art, fashion and music. Working with the VAC she believes that it is important to keep the history and magic of art and Venice alive.


VAC Video: Garry Winogrand

By art, photography, The Venice Art Crawl, venice videosNo Comments

Get a little slice of history this Thursday afternoon with with this weeks VAC Video! 

Gary Winogrand, once coined, “the central photographer of his generation” by John Szarkowski, the former director of photography of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, was a Jewish Bronx-born photographer and one of the pioneers of what is now known as street photography.

Winogrand is mostly known for his portrayal of the diversity of American life, from shooting the Bronx zoo and Coney Island in the sixties to the bohemian lifestyle of our own Venice Beach in the eighties.

Garry Winogrand Venice Beach 1982

Garry Winogrand: “Venice Beach, 1982″

Check out this seven minute “mini documentary” on Winogrand shot on Ocean Front walk and learn why he hated the term “street photography.”

Blogged by: Gabrielle Wooden


Gabrielle Wooden is a writer currently residing in Southern California. Currently she is a blogger for the Venice Art Crawl and is working on her first novel entitled Blue Barcelona at UCLA’S Extension Writers Program. 

Artist Interview: Mark X Farina!

By art, art news, interview, The Venice Art CrawlNo Comments

As we continue with our new year, we will be launching the VAC with a big bang– that means, more artist interviews, more events to look forward to, and of course, MORE VENICE ART!

Check out this interview that VAC board member Nicole Muyingo conducted with Venice Based Artist, Mark X Farina!

1. Who are you and what do you do?

 Mark X Farina- Pop Artist, Reverse Engineer, Roma Gypsy.

2. In your words how would you define art? 

Anything that sparks a reaction.

3. At what age did you realize that you were creatively talented? 

I’m still not convinced I have any real talent, but I received a lot of art training, and I know I’m creative.

4. What’s your background? 

Studied advertising and the media’s effects on people, but I love art and sports.

MXF I dont do Interviews

5. What materials/paints do you generally work with? 

Anything available.

6. What art do you most identify with? 

The conceptual scene that formed from the 1960’s – that’s a big area, but I really sync with that era/ movement.

7. Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?  

Took a phone shot of the beach sunset one night, then tried to paint it.


8. What is an artistic outlook on life? 

Observe (often through dark sunglasses) and report.

9. What superpower would you have and why? 

Wow that’s a great question with so many possible answers for me, but I still dream I can fly, not very well, which sometimes abruptly wakes me up.

10. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? 

Not sure, I’m still exploring.

11. Name three artists you’d like to be compared to: 

Moe, Larry and Curly.

12. WHAT is your ‘method’?  

Work fast, cure slow, destroy before collecting dust.


13. What is your preferred subject and why? 

I like gradations and innuendo.

14. What’s the best thing about being an artist? 

Freedom of expression.

15. What’s the worst thing about being an artist? 


16. What advice do you have for aspiring artists? 

Do the work, open the door- if you make it, someone will check it out and let you know.

Check out more of Mark X Farina’s work on his website and tumblr!

www.mxfarina.com / http://www.mxfarina.tumblr.com

Photo Credit: Mark X Farina

 Compiled by: Gabrielle Wooden and Nicole Muyingo.


Gabrielle Wooden is a writer currently residing in Southern California. Currently she is a blogger for the Venice Art Crawl and is working on her first novel entitled Blue Barcelona at UCLA’S Extension Writers Program. .

Cat Art: It Gets Serious

By abstract art, art, art news, The Venice Art CrawlNo Comments

From a provocative upcoming Metropolitan Museum show to adoption-ready “purr-formers,” the art world is exploring the shock of the meow!

Balthus: Cats and Girls, the exhibition opening September 25th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was originally called just that.

The title is accurate: Felines and females abound in the work of the French-born, classically inspired, figurative painter, who was a familiar art-world name at the time of his death, at 92, in 2001. In this country, though, he hasn’t had a big show in three decades.

So the general public might not be aware that these cats aren’t cute or grumpy at all. Rather they are sinister voyeurs of pensive adolescent girls, rendered in enigmatic and erotically charged poses.

Balthus, The King of Cats, 1935. oil on canvas. COURTESY FONDATION BALTHUS. ©BALTHUS.

Suggestive and disturbing, to our contemporary sensibility they may well seem even more provocative than they did the last time the Met did a big Balthus show, in 1984. To acknowledge that some viewers might find some content offensive, the museum added a subtitle: “Paintings and Provocations.”


Focusing on work from the mid-’30s to the ’50s, the exhibition coincides with the publication by Rizzoli of Balthus and Cats, which traces the cat motif throughout the artist’s career. The Met will show–for the first time in public–the charming ink drawings Balthus made at the age of 11 for Mitsou, his story about a stray tomcat; the book was published in 1921 by Rainer Maria Rilke, a close family friend.

Later Balthus began to pair these felines with tweens or teens poised in what curator Sabine Rewald describes as “self-absorbed languor,” draped over chairs, lost in a dream state, unself-consciously (or not) lifting their skirts to reveal their white panties. His models grew up and moved on, but Balthus stayed fixated on his nymphets. The cats beside them—sometimes rubbing suggestively, sometimes lapping at milk, sometimes staring amused (the way the models never do) at the viewer–play off the idea of budding female sexuality. Even more so, they act as stand-ins for the artist himself.

The Met show will make two cat-themed museum offerings in New York this season: It opens on the tails of the Brooklyn Museum’s inauguration of “Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt,” a long-term installation exploring the role of cats, lions, and other feline creatures in Egyptian society, religion, and everyday life.

Figure of a Cat, Provenance unknown. Ptolemaic Period-Roman Period, 305 B.C.E.-1st century C.E.

So cat art, in one form or another, has been around as long as cats have—over the centuries, the creatures have been imagined as goddess, hunter, consort and thief, as Sarah Hanson wrote in our pages in 2007, when Abrams brought out a massive cat-art tome. In recent years, especially with the rise of internet cat memes, the kitty has become associated with kitsch. But cats are also marking their territory in the avant-garde.

A landmark in the annals of cutting-edge cat art was the 1994 book Why Cats Paint: A History of Feline Aesthetics. Using copious photos and fluent artspeak, it revealed the achievements of Minnie, the Abstract Expressionist; Bootsie, the Trans-Expressionist; Princess, the Elemental Fragmentist, and other nascent art stars. Several readers believed this amazing story of painting cats, which included references to the “Scraatchi Collection” and an author named R. MuttWhy Cats Paint, of course, was an elaborate, hilarious hoax.

Or maybe just ahead of its time.

While the two New York museums were planning their cat-art history, two local alternative spaces were pushing cats into the realm of performance and social practice. Last spring Flux Factory in Long Island City staged Kitty City, an environment created by artists, kids, and city planners that culminated in a kitty adoption drive.

Cats_Flux Factory_600

Currently White Columns, in the West Village, is housing “The Cat Show,” an exhibition organized by Rhonda Lieberman that features cat art by figures from Andy Warhol to Matthew Barney, Olaf Breuning, Mike Kelley, Nina Katchadourian, Barbara Kruger, Elizabeth Peyton, and many, many others. The paintings, sculptures, videos, and more are there to spotlight the inspiration for the show, “The Cats-in-Residence Program.”

Installation view of "The Cat Show," 2013, White Columns, New York City. PHOTO: JONATHAN GRASSI. COURTESY WHITE COLUMNS.

For various days during the run of the show (which ends July 27), on a playground designed by architects Gia Wolff and Freecell, cats from Social Tees Animal Rescue adoption—“purr-formers,” in Lieberman lingo—will lounge, play, and hopefully find permanent homes.

“Cats rule the internet, but they are really underdogs in the city shelters,” says Lieberman, describing the artistic ambience as a strategy to “show strays as the gorgeous creatures that they are.” In keeping with the art theme, though, she has given her kitties art-world monikers: Frida Kahlico is “into indigenous calico culture”; Kitty Sherman  “questions the representation of cats in society.” Bruce Meowman  “believes art is an activity, not a product”; Claws Oldenburg is “fascinated by everyday objects.” Then there’s Richard Paw Prints. “Don’t call him a copycat,” says Lieberman. “He’s an appropriator!”

The personal ceramic cat collection of T. Cole Rachel. COURTESY OF WHITE COLUMNS. PHOTO: JONATHAN GRASSI.

Other cat stars–particularly Henri, Le Chat Noir–have emerged from the Internet Cat Video Film Festival, which started as a summer lark at the Walker Art Center and became a worldwidephenomenon, inside the art world and beyond. Currently underway in Jerusalem, it has future stops planned at sites ranging from the Minnesota State Fair to the Honolulu Art Museum and theMikwaukee Art Museum.

Meanwhile, another feline with a big role in art history is basking in the spotlight at the Ducal Palace in Venice, where Manet’s Olympia shares a wall with her predecessor and inspiration, Titian’s Venus of Urbino. The feline consort to Manet’s courtesan, sinister and suggestive, started a meme of its own back in the day (that continues to the present).

Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863, oil on canvas. Ducal Palace. PARIS, MUSÉE D'ORSAY. COURTESY MUSÉE D'ORSAY, DIST. RMN-GRAND PALAIS / PATRICE SCHMIDT.

His descendants still turn up in contemporary art.

In David Humphrey’s show at Fredericks & Freiser last year, the rambunctious kitty was getting out of control. Or maybe the cat’s just learning to paint.

David Humphrey, Scratcher, 2012, acrylic on canvas. COURTESY FREDERICKS & FREISER.

And in a work by Mattia Biagi at Anna Kustera, Olympia’s cat jumped out of the picture and sped around the gallery on a Roomba.

Mattia Biagi, Black Cat, 2012, stuffed black cat toy, robotic vacuum cleaner. Edition of 5. COURTESY ANNA KUSTERA GALLERY, NY.

At Anton KernDavid Shrigley’s cats came with mixed messages.

David Shrigley, (from left) Cat (Enjoy Your Hell); Cat (Kill Your Pets); Cat (Kiss My Ass), 2012, acrylic on canvas stuffed with foam. COURTESY ANTON KERN GALLERY, NEW YORK.

If you want to throw a cat, or at least cat art, Barney’s offers an option, in the form of a Roy Lichtenstein laughing-kitty frisbee. Priced at $28, it’s part of a limited edition of summer-themed products created with the Art Production Fund.

Roy Lichtenstein, Laughing Cat, 1961, flying disc. COURTESY BARNEYS NEW YORK.

Just don’t let a dog do the fetching.

Copyright 2014, ARTnews LLC, 48 West 38th Street, New York, N.Y. 10018. All rights reserved.

Words Originally Posted by ARTnews.com

Original post: http://www.artnews.com/2013/07/11/taking-cat-art-seriously/

Reposted by: Gabrielle Wooden


Gabrielle Wooden is a writer currently residing in Southern California. Currently she is a blogger for the Venice Art Crawl and is working on her first novel entitled Blue Barcelona at UCLA’S Extension Writers Program. 

Artists To Follow On Instagram

By abstract art, art, art news, Instagram, New Artists, The Venice Art CrawlNo Comments

Helllooooo fellow art fanatics and crawlers!

Do you feel your instagram is shrouded with selfies, inspirational workout quotes, baby pictures, women crush wednesdays, and pictures of IN-N-OUT?

Well, check out these artists to follow on instagram spice up your dashboard!! 

(As reccomended by ARTnews!)

1. Toyin Odutola posts portraits of herself, her family, and her friends.

2. Ryan McGinness took advantage of the Instagram format to create a new body of work. His feed consists of “grams”: phrases or ideas culled from his sketchbooks and matched with an appropriate typeface. These are rendered in knockout type inside circles. At this writing he had posted 135; he’s going for 2,000.

3. Art and family in the feed of Laurie Simmons: images of daughter Lena Dunham, husband Carroll Dunham, and her own work from her 2001-4 “Instant Decorator” series.

 4. The writing on the wall: José Parlá chronicles his recent project with JR in Cuba.

 5. Hank Willis Thomas makes you wonder what the meaning of is is.

 6. Faile in the studio (working on their New York City Ballet collaboration) and beyond.

 7. The passions of Shinique Smith.

 8. Body of Work: Daniel Arsham.

 9. Olek, the artist whose medium is crochet.

 10. Nikki S. Lee, whose medium is self-portraits.

 11. Gary Baseman posts photos, paintings, drawings, and other pictures that can “have the viewer learn something personal about me during the course of my day.”

 12. Face time with Kenny Scharf.

 13. Using the app Draw Something (and another of her own design called Draw ArtPaige Dansinger uses her finger to recreate famous artworks.

Copyright 2014, ARTnews LLC, 48 West 38th Street, New York, N.Y. 10018. All rights reserved.

Post Originally posted by ARTnews.

Orignial Post: http://www.artnews.com/2013/01/17/artists-to-follow-on-instagram/


Reblogged by: Gabrielle

Gabrielle Wooden is a writer currently residing in Southern California. Currently she is a blogger for the Venice Art Crawl and is working on her first novel entitled Blue Barcelona at UCLA’S Extension Writers Program. 

We Are The Golden Age of Abstract Art

By abstract art, art, art news, The Venice Art CrawlNo Comments

It’s tempting to see the years 1912–25 and 1947–70 as the two golden ages of abstract art, and to feel that the present revival of abstraction is no more than a silver age. But the present is always deceptive: it was not evident to their contemporaries that Malevich, Mondrian, and Pollock were the towering giants they seem to us in retrospect. The fact is, there is a vast amount of good abstract art being made today, and the best of it is every bit as good as the best abstract art of the past. The golden age of abstraction is right now!

How do we make sense of all this activity in a type of art that was declared dead 40 years ago? I believe the most useful way to understand abstraction is not in terms of its formal evolution (which does not, in any case, fit the linear models beloved of theoreticians) but in terms of thematic content. The formal qualities of an abstract painting or sculpture are significant not in themselves but as part of the work’s expressive message. Artists work by reviving and transforming archetypes from the unconscious of modern culture. Therefore, the most useful questions to ask about contemporary abstract painting or sculpture are: What themes and forms does it retrieve from the tradition of modern art? How have they been changed? And how has the artist used them to express the social, political, and spiritual experience of our own time?

We might view abstract art as falling into six basic categories. Three respond to nature: cosmologies, landscapes, and anatomies. And three respond to culture: fabrics, architecture, and signs. These categories are not mutually exclusive. It often happens, for instance, that cosmological images include anatomical imagery or that images inspired by fabric patterns include drawn or written signs.

1. Cosmologies

Chris Martin’s Seven Pointed Star for Isaac Hayes, 2009, touches on cosmology and technology.

Cosmological imagery in modern art assumes three main forms: orbs, orbits, and constellations. The orbs and orbits in the work of pioneering abstract artists like Alexander Rodchenko and Liubov’ Popova reflected the Russian avant-garde’s obsession with space travel as an allegory of revolution: the cosmonaut left behind the corrupt old world to build a rational utopia in outer space.

 2.  Landscapes

 Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, 2004, in Chicago’s Millennium Park, reflects and distorts the surrounding landscape.

The huge popularity of Anish Kapoor’s monumental Cloud Gate may be due to the hallucinatory impression it gives of having brought the heavens down to Earth. At the same time, the sculpture’s mirrorlike skin, recalling Brancusi’s polished bronzes, places it in the avant-garde tradition of art that actively interacts with its viewers and its environment. In the setting of downtown Chicago, Kapoor’s silvered sculpture seems to absorb, concentrate, and reemit the essence of a great American metropolis.

 3. Anatomies

However, the abstract anatomies of contemporary artists rarely correspond to the image of the human body as a whole. Instead, their work tends to hint at individual body parts, internal organs, or the “abject” substances excreted by the body.

4. Fabrics

Turning from natural to man-made models for abstraction, fabric has figured prominently as a source of inspiration. Throughout much of the 20th century, male abstract artists rejected comparisons between their paintings and decorative fabrics. In the 1970s, however, women artists, such as Miriam Schapiro and Joyce Kozloff, set out to revindicate decoration and to use it as the point of departure for a new, feminist mode of abstraction. The artists (both male and female) of the Pattern and Decoration movement often incorporated representational and architectural elements into their brilliantly colored compositions.

Valerie Jaudon, who emerged from the Pattern and Decoration movement,has remained highly abstract but alludes to the repeat patterns of fabric or wallpaper, as in Circa, 2012.

 5. Architectures

Peter Halley’s paintings, which launched the Neo-Geo movement of the 1980s, focus obsessively on the motif of a rectangular cell, reminiscent of a house, a prison, a computer chip, or a piece of machinery. Resting on a narrow band of earth or flooring, the structure is plugged into its environment by conduits that run through the ground or take to the sky, connecting it into an invisible urban grid. Instead of a place of refuge, the cell becomes a symbol of the postmodern self: isolated, immobilized, and under surveillance. The pure optical quality of 1960s modernism gives way in Halley’s work to a purgatory of Day-Glo colors and motel-room textures: garish, menacing, and weirdly seductive. Another painter, Sarah Morris, uses tilted grids and pulsing colors to suggest the dazed confusion found in the mirrored facades of corporate modernism.

 6. Signs

Signs have been an important element of modern art ever since 1911 and 1912, when Picasso and Braque put stenciled letters and scraps of newspaper into their Cubist pictures. But Jasper Johns’s flag, map, and number pictures of the 1950s and early 1960s initiated a revolutionary transformation in the character of sign painting. His stenciled letters and regular grids came to convey meaninglessness instead of meaning. They didn’t express emotion; they repressed it.

 Ultimately, the evolution of abstract art—like the evolution of modern art more broadly—has been a series of responses to the experience of life in the 20th and 21st centuries. As Halley argues in a brilliant 1991 essay, abstraction before World War II was largely inspired by the utopian belief that rational technocracy (i.e., socialism) would create a better world. The technocratic ideal found its most powerful symbol not in the rosy-cheeked workers of Socialist Realism but in geometric abstraction. After the devastation of World War II and the revelation of the horrors of Stalinist Russia, geometry could no longer function as an image of utopia. Changing polarity, it became instead a symbol of alienation.

Much contemporary art—not to mention fiction, film, and television—reflects a Blade Runner vision of a world, in which the individual is rendered powerless by anonymous government agencies, giant corporations, and deafening mass culture. It’s useful to remember that this nightmare vision is itself a romantic stereotype, ignoring the positive aspects of postmodern society. In 2013, as in 1913, abstraction is how we think about the future.


 Words Borrowed and Reblogged from ARTnews



 Reblogged by: Gabrielle Wooden

 Gabrielle Wooden is a writer residing in So Cal.  She is torn between having cinnamon toast or a milkshake for breakfast.