Category Archives: Fine Art

REA Field Trip to World Financial Center – Our Work is Up

Last week, the REA team took a trip down to The World Financial Center to check out the signage for the up and coming retail addition, which features the logo created by REA.  The large banners are currently hanging throughout the Winter Garden and are hard to miss.  We are very excited about our design hanging on display and are proud of all the work we did on this project.

To quickly recap, REA produced the idea and strategy for the brand, identity, brochure and renderings, as well as the website.  As one of the premier locations for office space in NYC, the WFC offers spectacular views of the Hudson River waterfront, a 10-story Winter Garden, shops and restaurants, and venues to host art exhibits and musical performances.  The WFC vision for 2013 includes a new retail streetscape along West Street, 40 local and international retailers, in addition to six restaurants with waterfront access.

REA’s Director of Design explains: “The inspiration for the logo came, in part, from the idea that the WFC was painting a new vision for itself — one that included a curated, considered experience — similar to something one would experience in an art gallery. Since WFC is near the water, I thought that the brush strokes of a watercolor painting would work for the logo. I did an initial set of drawings on tracing paper using a wide marker. After about the third one, I knew we had it … but we did another 20-30 just to be certain. Once selected, we scanned the drawing and then converted it to vector outline artwork in Illustrator.”

While on our trip, we also ventured outside to the WFC Plaza where we found a series of sculptures created by artist Adrián Villar Rojas. The pieces appear to be large cement blocks beginning to crack on top of wooden desks, but are actually made of clay.

Within several of the blocks are apples that are slowly decaying and being eaten away by the birds.  Known for his site-specific massive sculptures that reflect a fascination with parallel universes and outsized alternative worlds, his work titled “Before My Birth” is said to imagine the world through the eyes of the inhabitants of different worlds.

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter is considered one of the 21st century’s modern masters of painting.  He is talented in technical skills, as seen in his photo-realist portraits, but in his later years has worked mainly in abstraction.  Either way, his work seems to drift out of the subconscious, as his soft, blurred painting technique evokes a beautiful dreamlike quality.

Woman Descending the Staircase, 1965

Betty, 1988

Betty, 1977

One of Richter’s specialties was portraits.  The two above are of his daughter, Betty.

Richter used this type of “Atlas,” or plan, before painting.  Working straight from photographs, he would collect and place them together on sheets as source material for his paintings.

Self Portrait, 1996

Seascape, 1975

Richter also painted landscapes — clouds, seas, forests, meadows.  Unlike traditional landscape paintings, Richter’s border on the abstract.  Visually they seem to be the bridge between his photo-realist works and his more removed, abstract paintings.

Seascape, 1969

 

Untitled (Green), 1971

Abstract Painting, 1977

Untitled

In his later years, Richter — who had always worked closely with photographs — began to use them directly in his work.  Instead of painting from them, he began painting on them.  They are a collision of two forces — the real and the abstract of pure color.

Abstract Painting, 1995

Architect Bits

REA has come across a few interesting architects who integrate fine art and design into large-scale, experimental installations.  Enjoy the images and links below.

John Locke is an architect living in New York City.  Below, you’ll see the mirrored fence he built around the World Trade Center site to emphasize the shape of the sky in between buildings.  Sometimes, it’s the negative space hugging the angles of buildings that is quite beautiful in itself.

Locke also built bookshelves to incorporate into NYC phone booths, redefining the use for phone boots in a cell phone age.  The bookshelves invite people to take a book for free, or leave one for others to find.  This is perhaps the most public a “public library” could possibly be.

Ball-Nogues Studio is an architecture firm started by two friends, Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues.  They “explore the nexus of art, architecture, and industrial design” and have exhibited their work in various art museums around the world, including MoMA, the Guggenheim, and PS1.

RO&AD Architects are another duo — Ad Kil and Ro Koster — who came up with the “Moses Bridge.”  It quite literally parts the water of a moat for a fort in the Netherlands, called Fort de Roovere.  The fort is part of a defense-line that includes other fortresses and cities dating from the 17th century.  Drawing on the area’s historical context, RO&AD decided it was best to create a bridge that would be invisible to enemies trying to cross the moat.

Colors, Concepts and Typography in Mel Bochner’s Fine Art

By Lecia Bushak, REA Intern

Are words objective?  Is language effective in transmitting thoughts and ideas… or is it just as ephemeral as the thoughts that support it?  These are questions that Mel Bochner has explored in his art for the past 40+ years.  After receiving a BFA from Carnegie Mellon, he studied Philosophy at Northwestern and later taught Art History at SVA, as well as served as adjunct professor at Yale University.  He is the kind of guy who exemplifies the artist as both writer and philosopher, and whom you might expect to see with a Thesaurus under his arm (you’ll see why below).

Bochner is one of the most influential Conceptual artists to emerge from the 1960s.  Analytics, seriality, numbers, and language suddenly came to the forefront of art-making during this time.  Minimal works that emphasized the logical, philosophical, and mathematical rather than sensual perception, beauty, and aesthetic pleasure became the ideal form of art.  Bochner explores such arenas in his work–but what differentiates him from most Conceptual artists is his emphasis on color and visual affect.  These things are usually shed from Conceptual or Minimal works to enhance the importance of the idea rather than aesthetics.  But Bochner is able to smartly tie the two together.

In her review of the show for Art in America, Eleanor Heartney wrote: “In Bochner’s work, perception constantly trumps idea, reaffirming the artist’s belief that the sensuous is an essential element in even the most conceptual art.”

Bochner, Split Infinity

Portrait of Eva Hesse, 1966

Bochner seems to be drilling into the heart of what words mean and how they erect our perceptions of ideas/feelings, our relationships with other people, and society.  In Portrait of Eva Hesse, Bochner used words to construct the portrait of fellow artist and sculptor Eva Hesse.  He chose to center the piece around the word “wrap,” referring to the rounded objects often comprising her sculptural work.  The words circling the center are all synonyms of “wrap,” constructing a verbal–yet visual–“portrait” of her.  Each word brings to mind a different concept, idea, or feeling–and we link them in some way to Hesse and/or her work.  Each word is a new perspective, a lens through which we try to define her as a person–yet no one word can fully and accurately encapsulate her person as a whole.

Perhaps Bochner’s fascination with language in art stems from his experience writing for art publications in order to support himself in New York City when he first moved there in 1967.  Back then, artists didn’t write about their work or other artists; fine art and writing were two completely separate disciplines.  Bringing writing into art and vice versa was considered an impure meddling of the arts, so Bochner was criticized by other artists for “turning to the dark side” and producing art reviews, criticisms, and philosophical/conceptual texts.  Now, however, it’s quite normal and actually expected of artists to write–about their work, about other art, and about ideas in general.  Bochner was one of the first to begin that tradition.

Language is Not Transparent, 1970

This leads us to what many consider his “manifesto”–Language is Not Transparent, 1970.  Direct and straightforward, Bochner declares language as being ephemeral, subjective and often inaccurate when it comes to communicating or portraying thoughts and ideas.  Yet even in this earlier piece, Bochner is drawn to an aesthetic approach–the graffiti-esque scrawl on the black block of paint, the paint drips that lead the eye down to the floor, etc.  Where purists might find a problem with mixing aesthetics and concept,  Bochner proves that doing so can actually be quite successful.

Catherine Wagley on the Art:21 blog writes: “[L]anguage isn’t transparent and, if it ever brings you to meaning, it takes a lot of detours on the way.”

Irascible

I find his later works even more appealing than his earlier works, simply because of my guilty pleasure of staring at pretty colors.  His concepts remain just as strong in his later days, as he continues to explore words and their synonyms, but also brings color into the picture: How does color affect the meaning of the word and also our perception of it?  He complicates his original concept by bringing in aspects that both attend to the senses and the intellect (we might have gotten bored rather quickly if he had stuck to the Conceptualist dogma of stark aesthetics).

The later works, on top of being both conceptually provocative and aesthetically pleasing, play with my mood and emotions as well.  The words themselves, such as in Irascible (above) and No (below), somehow pointedly “get” to a certain part of me that’s not quite rational, but which has certainly felt all of those things before: whether it’s listless, crabby, or just plain old “blah.”  Somehow, comparing and contrasting the synonyms for a certain feeling like “lazy” or “irritable” intrigues both my brain and my emotions.  For an artwork to be strong in all three (often conflicting) areas of aesthetics, concepts and emotions, it is, in my mind, a successful piece.

Even if you're not much of a Conceptualist, you've definitely felt like this before. Bochner is almost making fun of that lazy part in all of us--in a sympathetic way.

No

 

Marina Abramovic: Life as Art

By Jess Wertheim, REA Intern

Is there a difference between life and art?  The famed performance artist Marina Abramović doesn’t think so.  For her, “performance becomes life itself…performance becomes life and life becomes art.”  A good friend of hers once said, “Marina is never not performing.”

Both daring and extreme, Marina Abramović pushes boundaries in the most surprising ways possible.  She risks her life on a regular basis, all in the name of art.  Everything she does provokes deep inner emotions in others as they watch and/or interact with her.  So much so that people question how what she does is art?

Her exhibit back in 2010 at the Museum of Modern Art titled The Artist Is Present was unlike anything I had ever seen before.  Upon entering the exhibit there were photographs hanging on the walls with descriptions of the performances while some projectors hung from the ceiling, playing other performances of hers in a loop.  For example, one video showed the artist lying on the ground, screaming.  The description read, “The artist screamed until she lost her voice.”  In another video, she violently brushes her hair while making frustrated, angry sounds.  In one piece called “Rest Energy”, she and her lover faced one another and held a large bow and arrow together. While she held the bow, he pulled the string backwards, aiming the arrow toward her heart.

For a piece that she did in 1973 titled “Rhythm 10” she played music from a tape recorder while one hand was spread open on the floor.  She took a knife in her other hand and to the rhythm of the music stabbed at the spaces in between her fingers and changed to a bigger knife each time she stabbed herself.  Many of her works were disturbing such as this one.

There were also two live aspects to the exhibit.  One was the naked man and woman standing in the entranceway of the gallery that led into the next gallery.  In order to proceed, it was necessary for one to pass through them, and most likely rub against them due to the small space.

The main attraction was of course, Ms. Abramović herself.  She sat at a small wooden table in the lobby of the museum across from an empty seat.  One at a time people were encouraged to take a seat across from her and sit silently without talking, touching or any explicit communication.  Her goal was “to achieve a luminous state of being and then transmit it—to engage in what she calls ‘an energy dialogue’ with the audience.” She did this all day, every day until the exhibit closed.  Appropriately called The Artist Is Present, the piece was the “longest-duration solo work of [her] career, and by far the most physically and emotionally demanding she [had] ever attempted.”  Art critic Arthur Danto observed The Artist Is Present exemplifies a completely new experience in the history of art.  “For most masterpieces people stand in front of it for thirty seconds. Mona Lisa: Thirty seconds. But people come and sit here all day.”  This performance demonstrated Ms. Abramović’s statement about long-durational work might be true after all: “Performance becomes life itself.”

Abstract Designs of Louis Reith

Inspiration and Advice from Sol LeWitt

Detailed, painstaking, strangely liberating.  These terms have often been used to describe Sol LeWitt’s large drawings and paintings that span entire walls in some of the most well-known museums in the world.  LeWitt came up with the concept behind the work, then employed hundreds of working artists, art students and art historians to execute them–allowing his works to be subject to new and unexpected changes throughout the process.

In this way, “each instantiation, each iteration, is a new interpretation, as is a new performance of a musical score” (Dia: Beacon, Riggio Galleries).

A New York Times article written after LeWitt’s death stated, “…Mr. LeWitt gently reminded everybody that architects are called artists — good architects, anyway — even though they don’t lay their own bricks, just as composers write music that other people play but are still musical artists. Mr. LeWitt, by his methods, permitted other people to participate in the creative process, to become artists themselves.”

LeWitt offers a refreshing approach to art, especially in some of his personal writing.  In a letter to fellow artist Eva Hesse, LeWitt wrote: “Stop it and just DO.  Try and tickle something inside you, your ‘weird humor.’ You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool… You are not responsible for the world — you are only responsible for your work, so do it. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be.”

LeWitt started out as a graphic designer for the architect I.M. Pei, and later drew on this background to form his signature solid-colored, flat painting and drawing style.  Many of his earlier works were devoid of colors; later he switched to adding more colors and curves to his pieces in the 1980’s.  People questioned why the stark conceptualist suddenly switched, and he responded, “Why not?”

“A life in art is an unimaginable and unpredictable experience” (Sol LeWitt).