Tag Archives: fine art

Cosmic Quilt – NYC Design Week 2012

The Principals is an industrial design studio based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and they’ve come up with an interesting project that will be exhibited at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) May 19-21.

“Cosmic Quilt” will challenge the design community with questions about interactive environments, including these from ArchDaily: “What would it be like if the environment we inhabit responded to our present in an active way? What if we shift the scale of the way in which our devices operate to the way our buildings function?”

The project is on Kickstarter, so check it out!

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


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.”


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.



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).

Hotel Silken Puerta América Madrid

By Jessica Wertheim, REA Intern

How does the hotelier make his hotel the most desirable, beautiful, and unique in an extremely competitive crowd?  Does he hire the best architect and design studio?  What about bringing together 19 of the top architecture and design studios, from thirteen different countries?  That is exactly what the development did for the Hotel Silken Puerta América Madrid in Madrid, Spain.

Each floor of the hotel has a unique concept and is designed by a different architect.  From the moment the elevator doors open on a new floor, a new story and adventure begins.  The guest is invited not only to view, but also to explore and interact with the space – to look, to touch, to smell.

Unlike most hotels where each room and floor is virtually identical to the other, the designs of this hotel differentiate one room from another.  The uniqueness of each room reflects the overall themes of the hotel – individuality, culture, and freedom.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the floors:

Hotel Garage (Teresa Sapey): Brightly-colored walls and text graphics set the tone for the rest of the hotel.  The words that form the finger pointing to the exits, a person walking a dog, and a person in a wheelchair are all from a poem called “Libertad” (freedom in Spanish) by Paul Éluard, Sapey’s main source of inspiration.

Sapey intends to tell an emotional story about the right of every person to live life to the fullest.  “It is to move emotions that I work with spaces,” Sapey said. “I’d go for provoking just about any kind of feeling, no matter what it is… [A]rchitecture should provide a varied range of sentiments to be considered both inspiring and useful.”

Floor 1 (Zaha Hadid): Hadid was the first woman recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in the award’s then 25-year history; and, after exploring the first floor, it is no surprise to understand why the jury selected her.  Curvy lines create the flow and movement of the space.  The snow-white corridor produces a dream-like, fictional world, free of distractions, open for imagination.  Once stepping out of the elevator, one enters a clean, well-lit space.  Curved benches extend from the walls, illuminated by a twisted lamp that hangs from the ceiling and slowly changes color as time passes.

A unique feature is the guest-controlled messages that appear on the outside of the door.  For example, if a guest wants to sleep in, he can project the word “privacy”; he can also project “breakfast” to have a meal delivered to the room in the morning; or even “repair” if something needs to be fixed.

Floor 4 (Plasma Studio): Floor four is a visually and architecturally complex space that plays with geometry and brings the meaning of three-dimensional to a whole new level.  The studio used a “repetitive rhythm of partition walls, service ducts and entrance doors as a sectional framework.” Dramatic geometric shapes, built entirely out of steel, are suggestive of spaceship panels; color-changing LED lights outlining the shapes provide a fictitious feel.

Floor 8 (Kathryn Findlay): Kathryn Findlay believes “architecture’s success depends on the convergence of all the elements integrated within the work: external aspects, internal space, structure, environment and location.”  She has worked extensively on the integration between technology and architecture – the way in which technological advances influence design and the final product – and continues to explore and incorporate that combination on the 8th floor.

For this project, she collaborated with a lighting designer, Jason Bruges.  The two decided that the guest should play and interact with the space.  In order to achieve this, they had fiber optic panels constructed for the lobby of the floor, which capture the movement of the guest and then project a distorted image above the panels with some points of color.   The walls react to the movement of people walking in front of them; the bedroom numbers are light projections in front of the door.  The rooms are completely white – the furniture, the walls, the curtains.  It is a place of meditation, peace, and silence.

Floor 5 (Victorio & Lucchino): This comfy and serene space welcomes guests with warm colors and textured fabrics.

Floor 9 (Richard Gluckman): Inspired by the concept of a “box within a box”, Gluckman strives to deliver to the guests an experience entirely different from that of their home; cement ceilings and walls highlight this attempt.  The result is an industrial-looking space.

The Hotel Silken Puerta América Madrid is simply “the best in avant-garde design and architecture, where creativity and the freedom to develop each of the spaces has been the hallmark.”

Now, does that scream original or what?

Music to My Eyes: the Art of Music Posters

By Jess Wertheim, REA Intern


I’m a sucker for posters—I just can’t get enough of them.  It’s rare that I walk down the streets of New York without pausing to look at a poster.  The truth is, not everyone has an appreciation for posters, an appreciation for the art, the typography, the idea, the message, and time that goes into making a poster. It’s not just an ad or a sign.  Poster design is an art.

Ever wonder what happened to the art of poster ads?  The vivid, bold colored graphics of abstract images or the drawing of the everyday person depicted in everyday activity.  Many of today’s ads are filled with celebrity faces and bodies,

chiseled and primed, digitally enhanced, defect-free, touched-up and packaged. Got Milk? Need a camera? If it’s good enough for Christie Brinkley and Ashton Kutcher, it must be worth buying.  Even the fictional Geico caveman has achieved celebrity.

One type of poster art that always catches my eye is the music poster.  Whether a simple or intricate design, music posters have evolved without simply relying on the celebrity image.

The following are a few of the many influential and memorable music poster artists:


Jules Cheret: Jules Cheret is a very well-known graphic design poster artist from the 1800’s.  He is recognized for his famous three stone process, which gave printers the ability to produce all colors. His work often featured a single, attractive, elegant woman dancing in order to depict the ambiance of the belle époque.  His art actually enticed people to come to see the shows.  In 1884, Cheret organized the first ever group exhibition of posters and in 1886 published the first book on poster art.  In 1890, Cheret was awarded the Legion of Honour by the French government, a reflection of the advancements in art he had made.

Stanley Mouse: Turning to more recent history, Stanley Mouse is a poster artist most famous for his Grateful Dead Posters that he created alongside Alton Kelley.  They teamed up as well to create posters for The Family Dog, the group that organizes live concerts at the Avalon Ballroom.  Mouse and Kelley would often work alongside one another (one was left-handed, the other right-handed).  Rock-and-roll music was in the foreground and background of the political and cultural revolution of the ‘60s era; and music was a catalyst that brought people and protests together.  The Mouse-Kelley art captured that mood and spirit.


“Kelley had the unique ability to translate the music being played into these amazing images that captured the spirit of who we were and what the music was all about,” said the Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart.


Bonnie MacLean: In the late ‘60s, poster artist Bonnie MacLean obtained her inspiration from the shows at the Fillmore where she collected tickets, handed out programs, and counted money.  In addition, she also did the hand lettering on the chalkboard for upcoming shows, which eventually led to her poster creations.  MacLean often depicted women in a deep stare in combination with 60’s style lettering. Her bright colors and wavy typography are reminiscent of the times.

Wes Wilson: Around that same time, Wes Wilson helped establish the psychedelic rock poster.  His art is directed at and made for a specific audience: those that are familiar with the psychedelic experience.  Wilson’s style, particularly the exaggerated hand lettering, developed as a result of his personal familiarity with the psychedelic experience.  The influential typography that Wilson used was originated from the Vienna Secessionist lettering.


Jim Pollock: More recently, Jim Pollock first began making pen and ink posters for the band Phish when they were an unknown small group at the University of Vermont.  He has maintained a close relationship with the band, and has continued making posters for them as well as other bands.  He is known for his brightly colored linoleum cuts.

Tripp Shealy: Today, Tripp Shealy is a fairly well known poster artist in the live music scene from Boulder, Colorado. His prints tend to be reminiscent of the ‘60’s: geometrical, colorful, and trippy.

As Wayne Coyne, the lead singer of the Flaming Lips, said, “Rock posters have hypnotic powers. Maybe it’s the different dimensions of the lettering, or maybe it’s the colors the artists use, or maybe it’s because of some strange, unintentional miracle in their design, but I’ve believed in them and have wanted to leap (into their world) and infuse myself with them.”

Carsten Höller’s “Experience” at the New Museum

A review by Lecia Bushak, REA Intern

The New Museum’s Carsten Höller exhibition, Experience, is “the first New York survey” of his works.  Höller has been creating artworks for the past 20 years, after abandoning his scientific career to pursue that of an artist.  The New Museum brings together a variety of Höller’s installations, sculptures, test sites, and drawings, transforming all 4 floors of the museum space into a participatory laboratory, in which viewers are encouraged to interact with the works—including a giant slide penetrating several floors, a mirrored carousel, and a sensory deprivation pool.

Höller does not intend his work to merely be viewed; rather he designs it to be experienced (hence the title of the show) and “explores the limits of human sensorial perception and logic” (New Museum).  However, despite the superficially imaginative qualities of the pieces, the experience of the viewer is controlled in an almost scientific-experimental way, not leaving much room for interpretation.  It seems like the viewers are lab rats in one of Höller’s larger scientific experiments, in which he interprets our actions as responses to his stimuli.

Upon entering the museum on the first floor, if wishing to participate, viewers must sign a waiver and are offered upside-down goggles, which immediately presents the exhibition as a sort of playground or funhouse with its own museum-imposed rules and regulations.  Although safety is certainly an issue (the day I went, it was also children’s day, which meant the slide and other interactive pieces were swarmed with kids), it immediately renders the exhibition as a regulated, controlled, and limited so-called “experience.”

The most visually effective piece is the mirrored carousel.  Silent and slow moving to the point of being imperceptible, yet illuminated and glowing, it is a bizarre counterpart to a familiar carousel.  Participants sit with comatose expressions, waiting for their seats to move ever so slowly; they become part of the spectacle.  It is paired with “Singing Canaries Mobile,” a structure of cages filled with chirping birds, which is hung from the ceiling and also moving slowly.  The two pieces provide the viewer with a strange and potentially nauseating, but also hypnotic, visual motion.

Although the museum organized the show thematically floor by floor (i.e. the 4th floor focuses on movement, 3rd floor on utopian architectural spaces, 2nd floor on self-experimentation and confusion of senses), it is still rather disjointed.  I found the architectural structures such as the carousel, the slide, and the giant psycho tank to be more connected and effective together than the 2nd floor’s assaulting flashing lights paired with the low-lying, neon-colored creature sculptures, which leave the viewer in an overall state of annoyed confusion.  But perhaps that’s what the artist intended.

Strange colorful sculptures, although interesting pieces on their own, seemed out of place amidst the Dan Flavin-esque flashing lights.

Perhaps this idea of controlled experimentation on the viewers’ senses considers the way society itself controls much of our experiences.  Even the way we move—through buildings, on the street, up and down stairs, is controlled by social standards and norms, architectural infrastructures and human designs—similarly, Höller and the New Museum control the way we travel down the slide.  The slide then controls what turns our body makes and how fast it goes.  Beyond that, the way we move and interact with things is influenced by our own vision—and perhaps by giving us upside-down goggles, flipping the world over, Höller gives us a chance to escape our own limits (albeit in a controlled way, and in the limited setting of a ‘playground’ or constructed ‘funhouse.’)

The New Museum states: “Taken as a whole, Höller’s work is an invitation to re-imagine the way in which we move through the world and the relationships we build as he asks us to reconsider what we think we know about ourselves.”  For me, a true artistic experience is one that is not a cushioned playground or “testing” site, but the real thing, released into the wild.  This ideal raw experience would have no rules or safety helmets to buffer our risk of panic when presented with disorder and disruptive sensations.