Tag Archives: artist

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).

Meet artist Gwyneth Leech

REA stumbled upon the artwork of Gwyneth Leech in the Flatiron building, where she creates beautiful drawings on paper coffee cups and hangs them from the ceiling.  We were so impressed and inspired by her work, that we decided to shoot a quick film and interview her for our “REA APPROVED” blog.  Check out the video here.

Typography in Street Art

Sometimes the best design inspiration can stem from what we pass on the streets, painted and stenciled onto walls by our nocturnal and mysterious counterparts.  What we find is that street artists use many of the same spatial and graphic elements that designers use in creating their work.  Here are some examples of excellent typographic designs by famous street artists D*face, Mobstr, Aske, and CT, for inspiration.


D*face is most known for his logo-like stickers and cartoonish pictures, but shows he’s also capable of creating his own typography.


Mobstr’s pieces usually consist of simple, black stenciled quips — which only make his jokes funnier in their context.  He shows typography doesn’t need to be fancy to be clever.


Russian artist Aske (meaning “Ashes” in Norwegian) chose the name because he liked the shape and flow of the letters. He employs graphic elements similar to that seen in 1950s and 60s designs.


Russian artist CT employs elements of movement, geometry, and optical illusions to create extremely bold and striking pieces, which appear more like logos than graffiti.

Artists Stick Together, NYC-style

New York City is the zenith for creatives, the mecca of art and design.  It’s also one of the most difficult places to “make it.”  So those poor, struggling soon-to-be-Brooklynites who wash up on its shores looking for creative nourishment to feed their inspiration-starving souls have to find ways to stick together and create together.

There are myriads of artist coalitions in the city.  Some of these initiatives are open to non-artists too—they offer classes, throw parties, and work to get the public involved in the growth of the arts community.

1). 3rd Ward: “An incubator for innovation and possibility.” Do you miss being in art school? More of a club than anything, 3rd Ward encourages the integration of art and social life — but it’s not exclusive either.  Join in on Drink ‘n Draw life-modeling sessions or attend one of their spectacularly-themed, laid-back parties, which sometimes involve swimming pools.  Located on Morgan Ave in Brooklyn, 3rd Ward offers various facilities including a wood and metal shop, photography studios, a jewelry studio and a media lab with design/editing software.  But of course, like a real club (or art school), it costs money to be a member.

2). Kickstarter: All you really need is a good idea and a convincing argument outlined in a brief video. Set a goal of how much money you need for the project, then watch people donate to your cause.

3). Brooklyn Waterfront Artists’ Coalition: BWAC, aka “Bee-whack”, has been around since 1978 to assist artists in achieving their goals and also in making art more accessible to the public.  They have nearly 400 members and plenty of exhibitions throughout the year.

4). Industry City: Located between Gowanus Expressway and the New York Harbor, this factory and warehouse-complex has become the home to many young artists in need of studio space and cheap rent.  Once a bustling home to manufacturing industries, this “city within a city” is now nearly empty save for the Virginia Dare syrup factory, the last remaining tenant.  We have all heard the stories of Soho and DUMBO, once-empty places to which artists flocked, but which grew into hipster colonies and finally into gentrified, retail-attracting hotspots of NYC real estate.  It’s hard to say whether this will be Industry City’s inevitable fate… but for now, it’s a Sunset Park ghost town — safe for artists to live and work.

81 DAYS: Ai Weiwei’s Rise to Celebrity Artist-Dissident

By Lecia Bushak, REA Intern

About a month ago, on June 22, 2011, the famous Chinese artist-dissident Ai Weiwei was released from captivity, 81 days after being arrested by Chinese authorities for unspecified “economic crimes.”

Mr. Ai is an artist in many ways — he is a sculptor, an architect, and a designer; he is a conceptualist and an installation artist, but he is also an outspoken political activist who is highly critical of the Chinese government.  And his incarceration has now rendered him one of the most famous modern rebels.  Has his status as dissident overshadowed his legacy as artist?  I say no; Mr. Ai’s political philosophy and artwork are fundamentally tied together.  He is a living exhibition of the “rebel-artist,” one who steers away from the banality of aesthetics and towards the concept, often controversial, behind his art.

Departing from the safety of aesthetics, an artist’s ideas can become dangerous.  Especially to one-party regimes intending to smother opposition and the free flow of ideas.

That’s why Mr. Ai was arrested on April 3, 2011, at Beijing Airport on his way to Hong Kong, and disappeared for 81 days.  During the months Ai was missing, he quickly became a symbol of rebellion to the Western art world and international observers who demanded his release.  Months later and no longer imprisoned, he has accepted an invitation to teach at a university in Berlin, although he cannot leave China until June 22, 2012 – he must remain under surveillance for one year, and will most likely suffer continuous badgering from Chinese authorities if he continues creating art.

But what about this man’s artwork itself, the cause of all the political hubbub?  Can one artist truly hold so much power in an idea — when he photographed himself breaking a 2,000-year-old Han dynasty vase (above), or flicking off Tiananmen Square (below)?  The actions behind these famous photographs are sudden, dramatic—childish even, so obviously churlish acts of rebellion that we are left to wonder whether Mr. Ai tried to remain subtle even a little bit, whether he was at all worried about the consequences of his ideas.

The “rebellious” works are, of course, only a fraction of the body of work Ai Weiwei has produced over the years.  He is well-known for his work on the design of the 2008 Beijing Olympics’ Bird’s Nest stadium, and other beautiful sculptural works of lighting such as Fountain of Light.  He is, furthermore, entirely capable of subtleties and nuances in his works despite the author’s above point, as seen in his sculptural and installation works below; Sunflower Seeds and Moon Chest.

Perhaps the world needs artists like these, the ones who will, in short, flick off a camera and get arrested.  The world needs to rally their support behind someone who isn’t afraid to use art as vehicle for dissidence.

I’ll hand it to Peter Aspden of Slate“This explains the intensity of feeling surrounding the arrest of Ai Weiwei. Culture has become a forum for the West to express its misgivings over the resurgent East. The art world can say things that the business or political communities, more pragmatic in their concerns, can’t afford to say.”

Scroll below to see photos of Ai Weiwei’s work.

Sunflower Seeds (2010): Every single one of these tiny sunflower seeds were hand-fired and painted individually, and about 100 million of them were placed on the ground at Tate Modern in London.   As Adrian Searle says in his review of the show, “Every unique seed is homogenized into a sifting mass.”

Bird’s Nest stadium design: In 2003, the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron submitted and won the design for the 2008 Beijing Olympics stadium.  The design was inspired by Chinese ceramics—giving it a “bird’s nest” appearance.  Ai Weiwei served as “artistic consultant,” to the team, principally architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron.

Moon Chest (2008): Exhibited at the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria, Moon Chest is comprised of eight Huanghuali wooden pieces that allow visitors to peer through large circular holes in the wood.

Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads (2011): In London, Ai Weiwei installed reproductions of the Zodiac sculptures that once surrounded the 18th-century fountain-clock of Yuanming Yuan, but were destroyed in 1860 by British troops.  Ai is quoted to have said, “My work is always dealing with real or fake, authenticity and value.”

World Map (2009)

Cube Light (2008)

Rooted Upon (2009)