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Entries in Art (31)

Monday
Aug132012

Axe Cop 

Since 2009 Axe Cop has been breathing fresh life into comics. The idea is relatively simple: take one five year old, and his unadulterated imagination exhumed and exhibited in play, and add one twenty nine year old half brother comic book artist eager for new material, and an organic way to connect with his younger sibling. The payoff: brilliantly fresh characters and storylines inked and drawn expertly.

The main character, Axe Cop, a 1970’s-ish, mustached, square jawed, aviator sunglassed police officer wields a fireman’s axe as his primary weapon. His main partner, Flute Cop, endures drastic morphology as he transmutes from human to Dinosaur Cop, to Dinosaur Soldier, and then into Avocado Soldier, then with the commandeered horn of Uni-Baby becomes Uni-Avocado-Soldier. Obviously. And the duo battle with villains such as Pretzel Head, King Evilfatsozon, Dr. Doo Doo, and the Psychic Brothers who at one time attack our heroes with a set of truck-chucks – a nunchuck-esque flail weapon fashioned from semi-tractor trailers. This electrifyingly creative realm that Axe Cop inhabits would be hard for an adult to concoct, save heavy psychedelic usage.

Malachai Nicolle, the young author, continues to create new and evolving storylines for Axe Cop, often reflecting his growth in imagination, with newer characters such as Abe Lincoln showing up, perhaps indicating an increasing sophistication in awareness of the world (history, politics) and even pop culture (Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter?). These evolutions emerge as innocent and pure observations from the author’s worldview, presenting the audience with a from the hip honesty adult readers wistfully remember and pine for, and an affirmation to younger readers that their outlandishly creative imaginings are indeed valid.

Older brother Ethan continues to maintain a blog and a website, and sketch the undiluted musings from the mind of Malachai. Published by Dark Horse Comics, Axe Cop has bred a new generation of young comic book fans, as youngsters flock to autograph tables at conventions, eager to engage in conversation the Nicolle brothers.

Saturday
Jul282012

Sideshow Sign Co.

Luke Stockdale is perhaps more important to letters than the alphabet.

Maybe that’s a stretch. But the man behind Nashville’s Sideshow Sign Co. has certainly made his case.  As owner and Senior Designer at Whiskey Theater Design Co., he has spent more than a decade working with vintage typography and print design. As he sees it, he is bringing the print off of the page now with Sideshow Sign Co. Specializing in giant, handcrafted retro prints and vintage marquee letter light ups, Sideshow Sign Co. is equal parts old world fabrication and inspired artisan creation. Each piece is wired with an expert’s touch, every item meticulously aged and born of salvage, bent steel, wood or fine art canvas. The customization can be of minimalist simplicity or complex beauty. Whether for the home or office, the builder/graphic designer hybrid Stockdale and his crew are onto something-the stunning pieces from Sideshow are enough to sidetrack, so the client might be better off not staring at the wall during the workday

.

Sideshow Sign Co. donates 5% of its proceeds to EJI.org, a nonprofit organization which provides legal counsel to those in need. Servicing clients from all walks with the same attention to detail and creative lean that is catapulting the company into an esteemed status, Sideshow Sign Co. is also becoming a living reminder that art is in everything, even such a presumed utilitarian concept as signage and letters.

The writing is on the wall and it is a beautiful thing.

Friday
Jan062012

The Wall at Central Square

In the historical New England town of Cambridge, Massachusetts stands The Wall at Central Square. The inspiration for The Wall began with Geoff Hargadon, a New England financial advisor and street art collector. He enlisted the support of restaurateur Gary Strack, of the Central Kitchen restaurant. As an evolving narrative on the exterior of the Central Kitchen—The Wall is a colorful exposition on life.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec082011

American Artist Ernie Barnes

Ernie Barnes didn’t look the part. An imposing sight, his frame seemed better equipped for the violent beauty of American Football than the impassioned plane of painting. Initially subscribing to this sentiment, the child of a Jim Crow South would forge a pigskin career professionally until 1965, when Jets owner Sonny Werblin recognized Barnes’ artistic inclination, and graciously afforded him a single year’s salary to “just paint”. Thus the transition from athlete to heralded figurative painter, and a legacy as one of the foremost African American artists to ever be.

It is an effortless task to rattle off Barnes’ bio. Official artist of the ‘84 Games in the City of Angels. Ghost painter for JJ in the groundbreaking American TV serial “Good Times”. His striking “Sugar Shack” served as the background for the closing credits of the aforementioned sitcom, as well as a Marvin Gaye album cover. Regarded as the greatest sporting painter of his time. Commissioned to create masterpieces for the likes of Jerry Buss, Charleton Heston, Kanye West, and Flip Wilson. His exploits are endless. The true hardship is describing a visual treasure with words.

Known as a neo-mannerist, Barnes applied the use of elongated, muscled form to express spiritual and physical struggle. His sporting works often focused on the brutality of football, serving as a commentary on the game. “I was reaching for the absurdity of what men can be turned into with football as an excuse,” he once told an interviewer. His later work, centered upon black culture and daily life, had an incredulous ability to capture joy, tension and despair on the same canvas. Almost entirely, he would present his characters with closed eyes, as he often theorized we as a people are “Blind to each other’s humanity.” No stone unturned, every facet of a Barnes painting was purpose driven, with a sense of connectivity and fluidity, a virtual thematic detonation.

Affectionately known as “Big Rembrandt,” Barnes falls into the category of Black icons whose influence has crossed all lines of race creed or color. His creations retain a quality that leaves the viewer adrift in awe. Literal hours can be spent consuming a single piece and the versatile stories and emotions captured throughout. From pads to palette, Ernie Barnes was a mountain of a man in all facets of his life.

Sunday
Oct302011

Andy Warhol - The Factory

The Factory with Bob Dylan

The Factory.

It was Andy Warhol’s NYC Mecca, a bastion of the eccentric, the hip cradle for artsy types who would go on to be known as the Warhol superstars. With a blunt audacity that might carry shock value even in this day and age, The Factory was downright outlandish in the early 1960’s. Noted for its groundbreaking parties and revolving door of influential artists, The Factory, at its essence, was a haven for Warhol’s brand of pop art. John Cale, a Factory regular, mused "It wasn't called the Factory for nothing. It was where the assembly line for the silk- screens happened. While one person was making a silkscreen, somebody else would be filming a screen test. Every day, something new."

Rolling Stone Brian Jones & Warhol 1966

As Warhol’s legend grew, he was slaving away nonstop on his paintings. To create his art, Warhol employed silk-screens in order to mass-produce images (as capitalist corporations mass produce consumer goods). To keep the machine running, Warhol assembled his Superstars: drag queens, adult film actors, musicians, drug addicts, free-thinkers and socialites. It was these Superstars who turned the now-demolished, dingy building into an iconic legend.

When not painting inside the all-silver interior (made so with tin foil, paint and balloons), The Factory was an anchor in which to make films, commissions, sculptures and shoes. It also served as a bohemian den of sorts, a joint where celebrities such as Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali and Truman Capote hung their artistic hats. Reed’s "Walk on the Wild Side", his best known song, is about the superstars he hung out with at the Factory. He mentions Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, and a few others directly.

Warhol’s now-treasured film library, at the time considered obscene and unlawful, was almost entirely shot at his second home. In an unfortunate attempt at dimming Warhol’s shining light, he was shot himself inside the walls of The Factory. It was the home of the Soup Cans and the Marilyn Monroe prints, and the birthplace of pop art. The Factory was many things to many people, a blurry dynamo that followed no rules and skewed the line. More than a drab dwelling, it was Warhol, it was the Superstars, and in the annals of art, it was reminiscent of the society of the era it forged its name in.

The Factory was, simply, a revolution.

Saturday
Oct152011

Gage Hamilton - The Alexander Hamilton Project 

The art of Oregonian Gage Hamilton is akin to the feeling a twelve year old boy would undergo upon first opening a skin magazine; it is jaw dropping, shocking, and addicting. At first, he does not know what to make of it, but his worldly vantage is forever altered, and he is definitely coming back for a sequel.

The innovation of what Hamilton crafts is a mind bender. The aspirations of his ideas seem almost implausible. Yet he achieves brilliance, visceral three dimensional M.C. Escher pieces, and manages to do so while making it appear effortless. Unlike many of his contemporaries, who linger in a state of pretense, Gage Hamilton creates with a reason.

Look no further than The Alexander Hamilton Project.

He calls it “A celebration of the absurdity of money and the incessant desire to make it”. With all of the complex and structured threats to everyday life that money causes, The Alexander Hamilton Project subtitles our motion picture with genius simplicity. With a scale currency bill, crumbled and discarded behind the rear of Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull, the innuendo is a biting, searing synopsis. Hamilton’s admitted money fetish (not as a system, rather as an object) pours all over TAHP.

Whether constructing dollar-Mache floral arrangements in the cracks of Detroit’s urban blight, or presenting the gut check landscape of a Portland garbage bin overflowing with the green stuff, the motif is never lost, although with Hamilton’s gift, it would be easy to be distracted.

Once told that a career in Wall Street would make him a man, Gage Hamilton’s art portfolio is healthier than the financial portfolios of many of the very traders and gurus he skewers. Once a cliché, there are now literally two sides to every coin; those who chase it, and those who lambast the audacity it breeds. Who’s to say who is “right”, but through his passion, Gage Hamilton is starting the conversation.

Monday
Sep192011

C.M. Coolidge

Few artists hold more truck in American Culture, yet remain more anonymous than C. M. Coolidge. He’s most famous for the progenesis of the “Dogs Playing Poker” genre of art, which has grown into a memetic kitsch genre – often imitated and reappropriated – and arguably the basis of much of anthropomorphic dog and even animal characterization. Coolidge’s legacy coupled the iconography of dogs, and their inherent connectedness to man, with that of some of man’s most sordid and secretive, yet more pleasurable activities. Subjects of Coolidge’s work often include card playing, and tend to illuminate subtle tension present in such interaction.

By using dogs, the artist is able to capture, with some removal of prejudice, these uncomfortable, though undeniably palpable situations. Tension exists in human interaction. Dogs doing these human activities somehow make it digestible.

C. M. Coolidge is also accredited with starting carnival cutout illustrations, allowing carnival goers to insert their face into a context with some cartoonish character; a standard still seen in amusement parks and carnivals. An attendee is now part of this larger thing. A famous comic character. Or photographed indelibly as part of an iconic amusement park, or other landmark.

Thematically, both of these studies display a keen insight into possible amalgamation and hybridization of things, which had remained largely divorced and unrelated. Coolidge’s body of work is distinctly American, and continues to quietly influence American Culture.

Wednesday
Sep142011

Peter Beard

Peter Beard was a Tommy Hilfiger ad before the fashion designer was ever born, a male Audrey Hepburn, a fashion iconoclast cross-bred with Indiana Jones and James Dean. He has been married to a supermodel and has called Jackie O, Warhol and Capote his pals, and thanks to the blue blood that runs in his veins, it is hardly a risk to label his life as jet set.

With such labels, it might be difficult to grasp the reality that Peter Beard is an American photography legend. Difficult only until you see his work.

Beard’s creative juices flow into his collage-work and diaries. As a child who was transfixed by the captured memories that photographs bring, the diaries began to amass at an early age. Eventually, Beard was inspired to take a pilgrimage to Earth’s Cradle in 1955 upon digesting the literary giant Out of Africa. Snapping endless photos of the wildlife and nature, he began putting them into collages, employing animal blood and remains aside newspaper clippings to craft his images.

From there, his personal life, the glittery worlds of fashion, Tinseltown and rock and roll, intersected in the ultimate juxtaposition, with everything from the invasive Western colonization of Africa to the Kennedy reign and the New York art scene. In Beard’s eccentric creations, which continue today, he uses everything from India ink, dried leaves and insects, his own blood even, to portray the world as seen through his textured, often crowded eyes. Sometimes controversial, always fascinating and diverse, Beard’s work shows him to be both a hunter and a gatherer; a hunter of life, a gatherer of subject. The camera, it is merely a base tool to the stories he weaves.

Peter Beard’s enduring sculptures of his passage in time are already a genius collective, a national treasure. On his walls, he holds an Art History degree from Yale University, where he enrolled in 1957, but even at such a refined institution, it is hard to imagine Beard as the student;

Peter Beard is a student of life and culture. Art, a trivial thing to calculate, is embodied in everything Beard touches.

It is with irony that Peter Beard was able to so eloquently capture the essence of all that entered his lens. If someone was to photograph the man himself, they would certainly snare the aesthetics of a rugged and handsome man, timelessly cool. But no snapshot of Peter Beard can ever unfold the story of the icon- well traveled, well versed, well lived.

Maybe there is an art to his elusiveness as well.

Wednesday
Jun292011

American Sign Museum

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs.

Certainly this is the case at the American Sign Museum. Rooted in Cincinnati, Ohio, the American Sign Museum was an idea that came to fruition in 2005 under the helm of Tod Swormstedt, a magazine guru fulfilling a self professed mid-life crisis fantasy. With no stock but oodles of inspiration, the museum has grown into an unabashed Mecca of American nostalgia through something that guides us through our lives with little appreciation-signs.

From the moment a person enters, their eyes become a vehicle for an ocular vacation; picture Vegas under the night sky. A trip to another era ensues, as fluorescent words scream out to potential guests of the Sky Vu Motel that they have a vacancy. A stone’s throw away is a number of drugstores and shoemakers, with a Bob’s Big Boy, eternally smiling with his famous burger in hand, not too far for dinner. Of course, it wouldn’t be Anytown USA without good old fashioned commerce. Thankfully, vintage signage courtesy of such iconic American companies as Hudepohl Beer, Gulf Gasoline, and Alka Seltzer fill this void.

Just a flash sampling of some of the legendary artifacts that can be found at the American Sign Museum. The restored and immaculate signs are curated and cycled on a regular basis, as Swormstedt and his nonprofit shrine to America’s story continues to accrue devotees by the day. For every amazing chunk of history stored away at The Smithsonian, they seemed to have missed the boat on the importance of signage in American history; sturdy is the ship that sails at the American Sign Museum.

Tuesday
May312011

I Hate Monday's 

From Banksy

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