When I got a call from longtime clients asking me to curate a selection of art for their new loft, I was excited until I heard: “We want to stick to black & white with a focus on non-narrative art “.
My aesthetic leans towards colorful, bold art with a strong narrative. I have filled their family home with this sort of art and they love it. I was confused about their request, but also curious. The best way I know to navigate confusion is by asking questions. Getting clients to respond with WOW is about translating their subconscious desires into physical reality. Tapping into the secret language of desire, emotions, is the first step.
After long conversation, I realized that my client's life was full of grey areas and that both excited and scared them. As the last of their four children headed off to college in the fall, the loft represented a sort of bridge to a new life phase. Their large family home, 35 miles outside of Chicago, would remain the central station of their rich and complicated lives. The 1,850-sqft city loft was a distinctive space carved for husband and wife, man and woman, explorer and dreamer. They wanted to re-balance the inner workings of their lives after 30 years of juggling demanding careers and raising a family. The loft wasn’t supposed to FEEL like the family home. The goal was to create a space for emerging possibilities, while honoring the foundations of their lives.
Getting an assignment with such a tight curatorial frame, also hit my aesthetic refresh button. Constraints tend to squeeze more creativity out of you while nudging you out of your comfort zone. At first I resisted the “black & white” theme, until I dove deeper into mood, texture, material and artistic intent. In the end, the assignment was one of the most delightful ones I have had in recent years. It also made me reflect on how important it was to face each life phase with honesty and curiosity.
Enjoy a peek at some of the works considered for the loft.
My love of ART and culture is intertwined with my desire to better understand the human experience. Art transmits intimate messages about both the artist and the collector. In this way, the art and artifacts we surround ourselves with become the secret language of our homes. By sharing my ArtPicks with you, I am revealing all sorts of details about myself. This is the main thing to remember when collecting art; it is about expressing your unique soul, not aligning with the hive mind.
This summer I scouted the globe to find fresh ART- ART that has something interesting to say about the world we live in. I hope you enjoy my picks.
FIONA MACKAY "Untitled" 2015
Fiona’s recent paintings, made with batik dye and wax on a very thin canvas, capture the yin/yang of creation. The works pulsate with life pulling the viewer into their energetic vortex. The elegant works have the FEEL of textiles, a feminine realm, while paying homage to abstract painting – traditionally male territory. Fiona impressively mastered the unpredictable technique of batik wax to create large-scale works that embody the balance between control and letting go. I appreciate Fiona’s commitment to both simplicity and craft. Fiona was born in Aberdeen, UK and studied at Glasgow School of Art Lives. She currently lives in Brussels and is represented by Klemms in Berlin.
OSAMU YOKONAMI "ASSEMBLY" 2014
Osamu’s mesmerizing series “Assembly” is rooted in Japanese philosophy and human theatre. Is it the individual or group that should be visible? By dressing schoolgirls in uniforms and setting them against the vastness of nature, Osamu dissolves individual identity. The girls become anonymous, yet the collective strengthen and the world becomes a more beautiful place. The images capture moods of adventure, curiosity, lightheartedness and a touch of melancholia reflecting the fluctuating tones of the human experience. Based in Tokyo, Osamu is a widely known for his commercial work while his fine art photography explores his more cerebral musings. Learn more about his visual storytelling here.
HILAL SAMI HILAL
HILAL SAMI HILAL
The warmth and electricity of copper has always held my attention. Recently, I learned that copper is one of the 7 Noble Metals used by the Ancients and ruled by the planet Venus, as am I. I also love books, so you can understand my magnetic attraction to Hilal Sami Hilal's works. His delicate copper sculptures with their page like surfaces visually “read” like books, but fail to fully communicate. Letters float never becoming words, and sentences are nowhere to be seen. Hilal’s childhood was shaped by the death of his father who’s absence left gaps and holes in his psyche. In these fragile works Hilal recalls the tenuousness of language to communicate our deepest sorrows. Brazilian based Hilal’s works can be found in the USA at RH Contemporary.
MARIA BERRIO " The Kiss of the Butterfly" 2014
Scouting the globe for extraordinary art brings many delights and a few moments of pure transcendence. I knew at first glance that I had encountered a highly refined soul when I stumbled on Maria’s dreamy works. Her intricate collages made with torn bits of Japanese papers, paints, sequins and other daily materials evoke dreams, myths, and fairy tales. A mediation between the visible and invisible, Maria’s works feel like a love letter to the magical realism character of her motherland, Colombia. I especially love the interplay between historical, supernatural and romantic elements in her heavily patterned works. Her lush compositions populated with sacred female figures, animals and flowers, offer a dazzling respite from hard-edged realism. Now based in Brooklyn, Maria is represented by PRAXIS.
MICHELE DURAZZI "Was Ist Metaphysik" 2014
Michele offers a stripped down version of dream-like creation with his “surreal minimalist” series entitled Was ist Metaphysik? The Italian designer and architecture professor creates his pristine images with 3d modeling, animation and renderings. Large white spaces and blue waters quiet the mind in his futurist cityscapes. Michele conceived these works to exist at the junction of fiction and fantasy. While devoid of the messiness of human existence, the abstract surrealist images hint at the beauty of reducing everything to its metaphysical core – energy. I appreciate the meditative quality of the works and would not mind waking up to them. Learn more about Michele’s work here.
The works featured herefall in the $5,000 - $25,000 price range and are certainly conversation starters. Nothing elevates a room like a bold piece of original art in my view. Reveal yourself with ART. In the meantime, drop me a line and let me know which artist was your favorite and why.
The freshness of SPRING makes me feel like a blast of magic is around every corner. Actually, some very exciting creative seeds are blossoming for me with a long-held dream. (Hint: Could the world finally be ready for a sassy sitcom set in the art world? Stay tuned…)
To make room for the new, I have decided to phase out my Personal Curator services for individual purchases effective July 1, 2015. I will still be available for art advisory projects that have a dedicated budget of at least $100,000. This change only strengthens my mission of unearthing and supporting emerging artistic talent. Contributing to the economic success of an artist I admire is an important part of my work. Matching a collector with artist they love my great pleasure.
Searching for a FRESH piece of art? Drop me a note and lets schedule a consultation here or check out my FREE resources. In either case, remember there is no better way to support the arts than to BUY a work of art.
To get your visual juices flowing, here are my SPRING 2015 ARTPICKS.
THIS WAY, 2013 100 x 70 cm on acrylic | Artist: Rahman Hak-Hagir Photographer Nicole Monihart
One of my favorite archetypes in literature is the Trickster - a court jester, a master of disguise and a keen observer of social landscapes. Half Austrian, half Afghani artist Rahman Hak-Hagir questions conventional thinking in his conceptual performances, documented in photos and video. In literature, the Trickster serves as a catalyst to move the plot forward. Rahman’s cleverly constructed performances seek to promote new ways of thinking on the socio-political issues of our time by offering up a mirror. Rahman, who is the central figure in most of his theatrical performances, displays a sharp ability to distill complex narratives into simple visuals. Yet, like any good trickster, he challenges status quo with an intellectual wink and an excellent compositional eye.
A socially conscious artist, Rahman’s recent works comment on conflicting needs between the individual and the collective. He is also a founding member of the international artist collective "The Other Society". Rahman’s photographs range from the absurd, to the tragic to the curious. Priced in the $2,500 - $5,000 range, I enthusiastically encourage you to become an early collector of this thinker/trickster. A full portfolio of images can be found here.
Kaleidoscope Eyes, 2014 acrylic, fabric, dye and gesso on canvas 78 x 70 inches
I spent three long days scouting new treasures at 9 different art fairs in Miami last December, and this inventive Brooklyn based artist made my Top 3 FRESH List. It is impossible not to evoke Matisse’s cutouts and Miro’s tapestries when discussing Jess’s inviting, large canvases (photographs do not do them justice!) Jess’s process starts by getting down on the floor and intuitively playing with shapes, colors and textures. Improvisational and intuitive, like jazz, her work is about flow. Her twist is TEXTURE. Textiles are cut, washed, glued, sprayed and sewed on her canvases creating harmonious balance through just the right amount of visual tension. The simplicity of Jess’s works (like Matisse’s and Miro’s) is to my eye a pristine expression of inner joy and confidence. These works are not about cerebral musings, but embodied enchantment. The Martos Gallery in NYC opened Jess’s second solo show in February and the show largely sold out. Prices quoted to me in Miami were between $10,000 - $14,000 per canvas, which I consider a solid investment in both joy and art.
Emmanuel C. Bofala, Tipo Passe 2014C-printPaper and image size: 100 x 80cm
Despite the fact that I spend way too much time in my analytic mind, when I fall in love with art it is instant. I fell for Angolan photojournalist Edson Chagas before I knew his name. The curious portraits in his Tipo Passe series pack a punch visually and intellectually. As with his Found Not Taken series, his skillfully divorces object from cultural context prompting the viewer to question what they are looking at. Juxtaposing traditional African masks with contemporary “working man’s” clothing suspend the portrait subjects between two worlds. I read these staged portraits as speaking to shifting cultural identities in search of the right balance between global and local influences. A selection from the series represented Angola at the 55th Venice Biennale, winning the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. The photos are issued in editions of 5, priced at 12,000 euros, and are available through A Palazzo Gallery.
Census Poster, 2008 Oil on Linen
Art is ultimately about communication and UK based artist Ryan Mosley has plenty to say with his signature flare. Ryan’s large-scale canvases feel theatrical, populated with a robust cast of invented characters engaged in highly charged encounters. At first viewing, I called his work Absurdist Folk (you know how we art people LOVE to make up terms) largely due to their carnavalesque narrative. Interestingly, it turns out Ryan worked as a security guard at The National Gallery and cites Old Masters as an inspiration. I also learned that Ryan chooses to paint women with the same measurements as the men to treat them all as equals. Why not? The works offer up multi-layered narratives on textured surfaces. Ryan describes them as “giant watercolors” which he builds up through translucent washes, painting color over color to achieve a feel of a dyed canvas. The works are emotionally expression, visually bold and I love them. In the U.S., Los Angeles gallerist Suzanne Vielmetter represents Ryan.
Lizard Woman2006Acrylic on canvas183 x 213 cm
Another wildly expressive painter, with an obsessive focus on female models featured in glossy magazines, Katherine Bernhardt examines media representations of beauty. Her women, presented with severe, exaggerated features and emaciated limbs echo the works of Pablo Picasso, who had a love/hate relationship with his female subjects. Katherine channels her ire at the vacuous media images of women by trying to retrieve their identities by fighting caricature with caricature. Her paintings are passionate, urgent, sometimes humorous and sometimes dark. Her fondness for real women, street fashion and North African patterns are evident in her vibrant works. Katherine’s fresh take on female beauty has caught the attention of fashion insiders. She has been invited to create shop windows for Channel and Miss Sixty. Katherine’s work can be found at Saatchi Gallery and Canada Gallery (in NYC).
As I remind my clients, collecting art is not rocket science, but it does take time to edit down your choices in a sea of visual clutter. The more you allow your intuition to guide you, the happier you will be. Appreciating art is a leisure activity; so make sure you are enjoying the process of filling your treasure trove. I am here to make the process easier.
It is summer time and the sun is keeping things spicy, so let’s talk bold and expressive art – COLOR ABSTRACTION.
While I am a fan of abstraction, I am not afraid to admit that abstract works often leave me cold. Because abstraction is rooted in feeling, not narrative, it can be challenging finding a way into the work. The visual language of color, line and form can communicate powerfully with our subconscious, if the artist understands hers. Here are five artists who create abstract art in a way that feels FRESH, sophisticated and joyful.
Australian based Cherine Fahd brilliantly re-imagines traditional color abstractions in her series, “Camouflage.”While visually referencing the hard-edged Color Field paintings of Ellsworth Kelly, Cherine rebelliously turns the concept on its head.Men whose works were largely devoid of any human form dominated the period.Cherine puts herself in the center of this series by offering up bits of her hair, limbs and nipples while camouflaging herself behind colored paper.These innovate self-portraits are in many ways the antithesis of Color Field paintings – which communicated emotion through their large scale and brush strokes.Cherine’s self-portraits are small, intimate photographs that draw you in for a closer look.
LA based Kim Fisher offers an innovative take on abstraction with a technique wrapped in collage. In her “Magazine Paintings”, Kim starts from a linen canvas dyed black, then applies oil paint with an airbrush and incorporates cut pieces of aluminum or brass. With visual elements drawn from multiple sources, such as magazines and newspapers, and scraps suggesting the effects of age – Kim’s paintings create wholeness out of a fragmented existence. I especially like Kim’s series, created for the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, inspired by the museum’s collection of exotic shells. Kim’s exploration of gemology, fashion, abstraction and lunar cycles creates a body of work that is equally raw and elegant.
As the former director of LA’s Craft and Folk Art Museum, I know Clare’s folk-art inspired works that explore traditional gender roles well.A founding member of the San Francisco based Mission School, which helped catapult the bohemian aspects of street culture into today’s street art phenomenon Clare is a pioneer.Her recent move from figurative paintings into pure geometric abstraction retains the feel of the handmade to my eye.Clare’s abstractions contain her visual signature of motifs found in folk based textiles.While the human body has disappeared, the artist’s hand is evident in the brushstrokes and an intuitive connection to the viewer. Interesting factoid about Clare is that she also sings and plays the banjo under the stage name Peggy Honeywell.
California born and raised, Mary Weatherford’s abstract paintings have long captured the expansive feel of the state’s dramatic light and moody landscapes. Her recent large scale, 8- 10 feet, linen canvases created with a paint called flashe, and featuring a loose rhythm of earthy and bold colors, add an unexpected jolt with an angled bar of neon light literally electrifying the paintings.While expressive, Mary’s abstract paintings don’t over communicate, leaving plenty of mystery in the dark spaces.The abstract landscapes suggest both external and internal terrains to be explored.
Unlike many of her contemporaries Joanne Greenbaum has no desire to unify visual elements, or resolve existential dilemmas. Her exhilarating paintings are more wild roller coaster ride than Zen color meditation. Joanne’s “beautiful monsters,” as one critic described them, speak multiple visual languages and embody diverse systems of thought. She is a hands-on painter with a playful approach to material and technique. There is no fussing or finessing in her work. Joanne maps the chaos of life, emotionally and physically, without struggling to resolve it. Her graphic, sculptural paintings feel liberating. The drips, slips and overlaps of color, line and create a fantastical space to escape into.
Abstract art, like jazz, blends improvisation with structure to create beauty or confusion. Follow your instincts and the abstract becomes clear. Wishing you an expressive colorful season, whether you are north or south of the Equator.
“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, & not giving a damn.” – Gore Vidal
I am 100% with Mr. Vidal on style – declare yours with gusto.As everything you own tells a story, make it about what you love + value.As a kaleidoscope thinker, I am intellectually curious about many, many topics, but my visual focus is very specific.I call my signature look - COSMOPOLITE STYLE - a mixing and remixing of cultural history, contemporary subjects with a dash of the unexpected.I have a huge passion for stories and global culture, while drawn to an element of visual surprise.The truth is that originality is hard to come by after at least 5,000 years of art making.It is in combining old ideas in a new way that FRESH ART is created.
Here are six global artists who embody the hybridity that is the essence of COSMOPOLITE STYLE, and help me see the world through a larger lens.
My interest in geo-politics naturally extends to my curatorial POV. I enjoy artists who dive into global affairs because they offer a fresh perspective on clichéd news headlines. Iranian born Shiva Ahmadi’s interest in the power dynamics of oil production, and its role in destabilizing societies, is heady material. Her stunning jewel-toned works, a modern interpretation of Persian miniature painting, do not scream politics, yet a sharp critique of international conflicts is alive in them. In an exceptionally potent series, Shiva painted on oil barrels mixing traditional decorative patterns, Swarovski crystals with symbols of violence and conflict. I see these works as visual manifestos of contemporary oil politics.
I am mesmerized by the works of Shay Bredimus, a renowned tattoo artist and figurative painter.Shay skillfully mixes his training in classic portraiture with aesthetic influences from Japanese tattoo and Ukiyo-e prints.After surviving a traumatic brain injury at age 10, visual language became Shay’s first language.His ink-based paintings are elegant and slightly melancholic. I was immediately drawn to Shay’s series Kotomi,“the beauty of cities” in Japanese, in which he creates female personifications of Los Angeles’s 25 Sister Cities.From Athens, to Mumbai, to Yerevan, Shay modernizes allegorical female representations in art first popularized in Ancient Rome.
Gert + Uwe Tobias
I am willing to bet that a cultural theorist would likely never combine socialist realism, European folklore, Transylvanian craft with modernist color abstraction sprinkled with a dark twist.Such alchemy did spring from the minds of Romanian born twins, Gert and Uwe Tobias. Their large-scale carnivalesque panels beautifully merge traditional technique with subversive content.Working together since 2001, the twins have created a fantastical world all their own by dissolving boundaries between craft and fine art, abstract art and unconscious fantasy, modernity and tradition. I am particularly drawn to their giant woodcuts that blend modernist geometric abstraction with the narrative quality of folk art. At first glance, all seems playful and light until you look closer and shades of violence grab you.Lets not forget that folktales are ultimately morality tales…
The ancient wisdom of sacred geometry links the works of Tehran born, Oxford educated, Los Angeles based artist Yassi Mazandi to the present. Using repetitive geometric patterns, or mandalas, Yassi creates ceramic vessels that seem to sway in a meditative chant. Yassi’s vessels honor the symmetry and repetition of natural forms—petals, crystals, snowflakes and skeletons.Her sculptures contain both ancient and mechanical mysteries.The balance of masculine and feminine, inherent in the elegance of mathematical equations, soothes the mind and expands the eye.As part of her recent residency at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Yassi experimented with translating her 3D vessels into stunning mix-media prints, which she calls sculptographs. These colorful and intricate works on paper are currently a steal and would look fantastic in a grouping.
You can read heaps of books on the effects of global capitalism, or you can enjoy Hassan Hajjaj’s synopsis.A modern portraitist, deeply influenced by the African master photographer Malick Sidibe, he frames the pulse of global pop culture with pizzazz.Hassan usually photographs friends and fellow artists, often dressing them in his eclectic designs, lending a casual-chic mood to the works. Born in Morocco and raised in London, Hassan’s work comes alive with various influences from hip-hop, reggae, luxury brands, fashion photography, North African traditions and even trash.An award winning and self-taught artist, Hassan works includes portraiture, installation, performance, fashion and even furniture design made out of up-cycled Coca-Cola crates. His work presents a globalized society that blurs cultural boundaries.
Kira Nam Greene
Carving out a clear-cut personal identity in the land of remixed culture is an art into itself.One-note labels don’t apply to many of us.Korean born Kira Nam Greene assembles the diverse elements of her identity in mosaic-like works on paper (including wallpaper). Mixing various Eastern and Western cultural icons and patterns, Kira’s works navigate the duality and ironies of her identity.Food plays a starring role in the sensual and intellectual landscape of her world.Big bowls of kimchi, mounds of Jell-O and luscious cherries replace the traditional use of naked women’s bodies to depict desire and lust.Visually the works are active yet reflect various dualities of modern life with artistic balance. In Kira’s world, the foreground and background blend to create a feel of cosmopolitan tapestry.
I think by now you get a sense of what COSMOPOLITE STYLE means to me. I love traveling and have never met a culture I didn't like. Sorting through my discoveries and curating a top-notch art collection thrills me - although, I certainly need a larger home....
Would love to hear about you and your signature style. What catches your eye most? What describes your personality? Leave me a note below and share your story.
I am kicking off the New Year by reviewing new artists I encountered in the past 12 months and pulling out my Gold Stars. So here, dear readers, are SIX ARTISTS who felt like a breath of fresh air in 2013. To show you that art collecting is an affordable luxury, I am focusing my picks in the $1,000 to $10,000 price range. My own mantra for creating a fabulous home is: 1.) maximize the connection to nature 2.) stick to elegant, comfortable furnishings, and 3.) splurge on ART.
Am I biased? ABSOLUTELY.
But, which can better capture your unique personality, a couch or an original piece of art?
– The Innovators
KYLLI SPARRE, b. 1980
I discovered the stunning work of Kylli Sparre after she won the International Fine Art Photography Competition and it was love at first sight. Kylli studied ballet for years in her native Estonia before realizing she wanted to create theatrical scenes instead of star in them. Her work noticeably contains the elegance of ballet. I am drawn to the way Kylli’s portrays both romance and danger in her dramatic narratives. Her experimental photography contains so much action they feel a bit like short films. With titles like “Dancing With the Fairies,” she cleverly seals the storyline. Most of Kylli’s C-prints are available from this gallery in Amsterdam, in small editions, for roughly $1,000. I consider these works to be a steal and expect prices to increase as more art lovers discover this prima ballerina.
ERIK MADIGAN HECK, b. 1983
Erick Madigan Heck has been hot stuff in the fashion world for a while, but I stumbled on his vibrant photographs only recently. While the high gloss of his fashion aesthetic first caught my eye, my mind wasn’t quite sure what I was looking at. Erick’s fusion of fashion, painting and classical portraiture results in a bold artistic vision with loads of charisma. As someone who resists labels, I appreciate artists who skillfully blur lines and push boundaries. Erik keeps his methods to himself (who can blame him, copycats are a menace), but I imagine the post-production process is elaborate. Given that Erick is the winner of several prestigious awards and the youngest photographer to shoot the legendary Neiman Marcus "Art of Fashion" campaign, I’d say his vision is strongly resonating. Erick’s fine art prints, full of wall power, are available in very small editions from his studio here.
- The Intuitives
AMY FELDMAN b. 1981
While I am a fan of abstraction, I am not afraid to admit that abstract artworks too often leave me cold. Because abstraction is rooted in feeling more than narrative, it can be challenging finding a way into the work. The visual language of color, line and form speak to me through my emotions, not my fantastically active mind. Amy Feldman’s large-scale canvases, some 8-feet high, simply FEEL good to me. They feel sculptural, and playful, and feminine. I like their rhythm, their authority, and their lightness. In a rather serious art world, Amy’s looseness feels like a taunt, or maybe just an invitation to let your hair down. Whatever the reason, art fair crowds and collectors are digging her vibe and Amy’s impressive resume keeps accumulating Gold Stars. Brooklyn based Amy is represented in NYC by the Blackston Gallery.
JASON ROHLF b. 1970
Sometimes all I need is a blast of bold color to make me feel joy, add in layers of texture and I am doing cartwheels (in my mind.) Jason Rohlf delivers with his graphic and beautifully textured collages, some made with shop rags. Using both drawing and collage techniques, Jason explores surface and color by making and remaking each piece until the story is complete. His process is part mechanical, part intuitive and I like the resulting juxtaposition of the planned vs. the chaotic. Many of his works are on the small size yet radiate a blast of life force. His “Shoprags” series is a crowd favorite, and I am particularly drawn to his works that feature my favorite shape – the circle. Is there a culture on earth that doesn’t worship the circle? No beginning, no end, just an organic flow. Brooklyn based Jason is represented by the Troy Folliard Gallery in his native Milwaukee.
– The Naturalists
BRYAN NASH GILL b. 1961
Creating an art filled home is not unlike composing a musical score - beware of one-note melodies or too much staccato. Visually intense works crave the balance of softer ones, and complex narratives need simples ones to heighten the drama. Art can excite or calm the senses and every collector composes according to their rhythm. Bryan Nash Gill’s wood block prints anchor me into my true nature. Celebrated worldwide for his beautiful and raw installations and sculptures, Bryan’s prints gracefully bring the outdoors inside. Inspired by a local tree mill, Bryan pays homage to sacrificed trees by documenting each detail of their wood grain onto paper through relief printing and a laborious rubbing technique. For me, the boldness of the works comes from their simplicity and honesty. Sadly, Bryan unexpected passed away last spring and I am thankful to him for sharing his talents so generously. A limited selection of prints are available at the divine Ashes and Milk and this gorgeous coffee table book documents Bryan vision.
Those who know me, or my work, recognize that I am equal parts earth and sky. Sometimes I need terra firma to ground me sometimes I need big skies to let me fly. The delicate, ephemeral works of Mari Andrews are both airy and intelligent. They speak to a natural order of things and the power of the unseen. Mari calls her works “paperless drawings,” which feels right to me. An obsessive collector of objects, from nature and the man-made, Mari’s drawings bring attention to things that usually go unnoticed. For me, the brilliance of her work is how disparate elements collaborate with each other to create organic beauty. Her work seems to mirror both human frailty and the intelligence of collaboration. You can discover more of Mari’s world in her studio.
I hope you enjoyed my Gold Stars and discover ART that compels you to splurge in 2014. As Picasso said - Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
I look forward to traveling the globe to discover new artists in the year ahead.
Promises of ethereal delights are incredibly seductive to us mere mortals. For artist James Turrell they have yielded earthy rewards, as three major US museums mount tributes to his work this year. The white-bearded artist intones that in his work light “is not the bearer of revelation — it is the revelation,” causing seekers to flock to NYC, Houston and Los Angeles.
James Turrell: A Retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is the most comprehensive survey of the artist’s work to date. Including early prints, photographs, and eleven “sensory environments” or installations. The museum dedicates two rooms to what it considers Turrell’s masterpiece, Roden Crater, a land art project on the site of an extinct volcano in Arizona. The documentation of Turrell’s 30-year effort to transform the crater’s cone into a naked-eye observatory offers the general public a peek into the invitation-only site.
Born in 1943 in Los Angeles, Turrell was a key member of the Southern California Light and Space movement of the 1960s and ’70s inspired by the region’s luminosity. Turrell’s love affair with light was sparked by a college lecture so boring he fixated on the glow emanating from the professor’s slide projector. Influenced by perceptual psychology, astronomy, mathematics and aviation - science is Turrell’s muse.
From first sight, Turrell’s affinity for mathematics is irrefutable. Curves are hard to find in his work. Turrell embarked on his pioneering light experiments in 1966 in his famed Santa Monica studio. By blacking out all natural light, Turrell was able to manipulate light sources with varying degrees of intensity. These early experiments are brought to life through the linear photo series Music for Mendota and aquatint prints First Light and Still Light.
Atrium (White), a projection of pure white light into the corner of a darken room creates the illusion of a floating cube. It is the simplest, yet most compelling work in the exhibition. Despite being one of Turrell’s earliest installations, Atrium remains fresh because it contains a balance of light and dark, yin and yang. Color selection plays a starring role in Turrell’s light abstractions. Raemar Pink White feels like stepping onto a ballet-slipper-pink cloud. Emanating from behind a rectangular plane, the soft pink light feels sugary. Yet, just like chewing a piece of bubble gum, the taste flattens the longer you chew. Recommended times for experiencing the installations are 8 to10 minutes, but I found the longer I stayed, the duller my experience became.
The immersive room installations, Key Lime and St. Elmo’s Breath, feature pitch-black rooms, velvet drapes and black carpets. They also introduce eye-catching color palettes and visual tricks, which did slightly shift my visual orientation. However, sitting in the dark, admiring the pretty colors, the experience felt familiar even without a cocktail in hand.
Throughout human history capturing the aesthetics of light has served as a metaphor for communion with the divine. Turrell’s goal “to bring the cosmos close” continues in that tradition. His Skyscapes, site-specific buildings, are designed with open ceilings to present the sky as a flat plane of color or a moving painting. A slide projection of Turrell’s 75 Skyscapes, scattered across the globe, suggest the artist works best when complimenting the atmospherics provided by Mother Nature.
Turrell claims that he creates experiences that allow viewers to “see themselves see.” This grandiose statement may set visitors up for disappointment. If Turrell’s elaborate installations are meant to create doorways to the spiritual, they are cramped by the curious absence of soul. While Turrell’s works contain the elegance of a mathematical equation, they lack joy. The highly choreographed museum experience also doesn’t help lighten the mood.
The most extreme examples of Turrell’s left-brain approach to art-making are his recent works, which rely on “sensory deprivation” to disorient the viewer’s optical perception. Both Dark Matters and Light Reignfall (of the Perpetual Cell series) require visitors to sign liability waivers in the event they are emotionally or physically harmed. Turrell himself describes these works as “invasive” and “oppressive,” which hasn’t stopped plenty from signing up for them.
It seems Turrell’s single-minded focus has landed him in a bubble. Once pioneering, his light installations now feel ubiquitous. While good art requires skill, great art goes deeper and lasts longer.
Is there a greater of-the-moment art form than photography? What happens when everyone is suddenly a photographer? For every action there is an reaction.
I see, with my eye, a TREND in the world of contemporary photography, and I like it. Artists are having a ball doing what they do best, offering us a mirror with a dash of insight. The photographers I am currently recommending are all creating highly stylized, multi-layered stories, instead of merely documenting the quotidian. These photographers are creating imaginative worlds or presenting the ordinary in an extraordinary way.
Photography is accessible in part because it explores a specific theme through a series. I learn much about an artist by how they develop and execute a series. How original is the idea? How engaging is the narrative? I advise my clients to see as many works as possible from the series they are interested in, and then narrow down the selection to three, and finally pick the strongest one.
Here are the photographic series that are catching my EYE:
Brasilian photographer LUCIA KOCH has managed to transform cardboard boxes and paper bags into mind-expanding architectural landscapes. Through her interventions and installations, Lucia’s photographs re-imagine space and our relationship to it. I love how by simply creating skylights or windows in everyday objects, like a cardboard box, Lucia beautifully connects outside with inside. I first saw Lucia’s work covering a full gallery wall, and felt the urge to walk right through it, and take a seat in the inviting box. The Christopher Grimes Gallery in Santa Monica, CA, just debuted Lucia in the US with a show aptly named, “a small show with a lot of space in it.”
The age-old desirous object that is the APPLE gets the 21st century treatment in JESSICA RATH’s “take me to the apple breeder” series. Despite a heady intellectual background, which examines genetics, breeding practices, food diversity and the human desire to manipulate the natural world, Jessica’s series is - first and foremost - elegant art. Working with a fashion photographer, Jessica documented her research subject with 11 oversized photographs, offered in limited editions. The cloned and hybrid apple trees are set against a backdrop of taut white cloths, creating ethereal photographs that are part-portraiture, part landscape photography. You can learn more about the science behind Jessica’s work here or celebrate the series with a healthy crunch.
Moroccan born, Paris based, multi-media artist MOUNIR FATMI is best known for blending geo-politics, pop culture, religion, and history in unexpected ways. His works are often political critiques presented as visual puns. While Mounir is clearly a deep thinker, I also appreciate his playful appropriation of cultural icons. Mounir explores the geometry of LOVE with his “Kissing Circles” series, which juxtaposes two Hollywood classics - Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times and Casablanca (set in his native Morocco). Zooming in on the final kiss between Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, Mounir overlays the iconic image with circles evoking the mechanization of the industrial age and the predictability of Hollywood romance.
Speaking of romance, Madrid based artist MARTHA SOUL wrote the book on impeccable love with her glossy “Idilios”. The highly stylized, Ad-like series features a mysterious redheaded woman who is lucky enough to be the star of several idealized romantic encounters. (See the entire series here.) The beautifully choreographed photographs set in a luxury hotel, golf course, lush garden, jewelry store, and chic apartment look perfect - at first glance. But, behind the shiny veneer, there is no human emotion. We never see the face of the mystery redhead or her well groomed, rotating gentlemen callers. Martha holds up a mirror to our consumerism and obsession with physical perfection while entertaining us. Still, as a romantic idealist, I fell hard for them….
Collecting photography offers collectors, established or new, a way to experiment or get your feet wet with a purchase. Prices are generally more affordable than other mediums and subject matter is wide-ranging and accessible. Follow your natural interest - fashion, nature, war, skyscrapers, or architecture – to find photographers who are exploring what you are curious about.
I have a preference for art that has quite a bit of “wall power”, so I am drawn to large format photography to create a counterpoint to a traditional setting. A photograph that tells a big story needs an expansive wall to give it room to breathe. Don’t be afraid to select a real conversation starter. Neutrality rarely moves people.
Let me know which photographer grabs your eye, or share a tip on a new photographer.
P.S. Adriana Duque, the Colombian photographer I featured here in my Top Art Miami 2012 Picks, is a great example of this trend with her highly theatrical, slightly sinister photographs.
If an artwork lingers in your mind two weeks after you discovered it, chances are high you have found something special. The frenetic pace of scouting new art at 22 fairs, negotiating sales, rhythmic socializing and lots and lots of walking (in heels!) doesn’t afford a great opportunity to get intimate with art. Part of my curatorial gift is my visual sensitivity. Sensory overload is very real for me so, I have learned to tune out sights that don’t appeal to me.
This ability works very well at art fairs where there are thousands of artworks to see and evaluate. I typically first walk a fair alone, get into a flow, zoom in on what catches my eye and ignore the rest. After scouting new talent, I do some quick research, speak with the gallerist and then bring in my client. I highly recommend emerging collectors visit as many art fairs as they can to sharpen their taste. It may feel overwhelming, but searching for treasure is never easy. Oh, and definitely wear comfortable shoes!
Here are my favorite artist discoveries from Art Week Miami 2012, all of which were found at various satellite art fairs, located in Miami’s arts district Wynwood, which showcase emerging and mid-career talent. I have also provided gallery prices to give you a sense of the market.
I was absolutely mesmerized by this captivating photograph on my first night in Miami at a party for Just Mad Mia, an art fair highlighting talent from Latin America and Spain. Adriana’s works are really theatric performances, mixing elements of fantasy, realism, and advertising with a dark psychological twist. Her compositions are heavily influenced by classic portraiture and painting which she uses as a stage to broadcast social critiques. The use of high Western culture to illuminate social dysfunction in her own country, Colombia, presents layers that I cannot immediately comprehend, yet I like the confrontation of fantasy and reality. Her carefully staged photographs sometimes feel claustrophobic, sometimes ironic, often wicked. Despite the veneer of sweetness depicted by fairy tale like subjects, sinister actions lurk outside the frame of the photos and the viewer is left wanting to know more. This photograph from her Icons series is titled Maria, is produced as a series of 7 and priced at $12,000. I would love an opportunity to share a bottle of red wine with Adriana and probe her mind. Adriana is represented by Bogota based, Galeria El Museo.Learn more here.
I am a big fan of both irony and play so I lit up when Amanda’s unstretched canvases greeted me after too many booths of dark and conceptual art. Her childlike works make you feel momentarily cozy and then at second glance you notice the subtext and sophisticated palettes. Amanda’s work looks deceptively simple and I can imagine she has a ball making art in her playhouse. Her work proudly reflects femininity and domesticity, which feels refreshing and easy to be around. Not that Amanda is a Goody two-shoes; she winks at the viewer with her slightly sinister titles that leave you wondering what the work is really about (the title of the work to the right is "Face to Face with your True Nature"). Par for the course, Amanda lives happily with her family in a Colorado farmhouse while being represented by a hip gallery in Amsterdam. Sounds like a storybook life to me. Maybe not exactly nursery material, these fun works selling for around $3,500 are sure to find “happy” homes. See more of Amanda’s works here.
If you have ever had the yearning to say “I own an artwork by a bona fide genius” at a cocktail party, here is your chance. Judy is best known for her complex and lyrical installations, including set designs for theatrical performances, and has been widely recognized for her pioneering talent including receiving the coveted, MacArthur Foundation's “Genius” award in 2004. What I stumbled upon at Scope Miami were her intimate collages, which like her large-scale installations, reflect a perfect balance between deliberate planning and whimsy. I love this small work on paper brimming with vibrant energy titled Jaipur and think having the pleasure of owning it for $5,000 is a bargain. Her gallerists at Accola Griefen are also a delight. This short Art21 video about Judy's complex installations is a thrill.
The works of this Moscow born, NYC based artist have been compared to the likes of Goya, Brueghel, Egon Schiele, Henry Darger and Japanese woodblocks. If you are thinking, “that is quite a bit to take in”, it is. Dasha’s works are bizarre and that is why I like them. She also has the wit and wickedness of an absurdist novelist. Her somewhat unsettling fantasy scenes are clearly a product of the artist’s lucid imagination and it would be pointless to try to deconstruct every detail, however the big picture draws you in with a WOW and then the titles makes you giggle. Would you expect a drawing called “That Only What is Real is Permanent” to look like the one to the left? I should mention that all her Mylar drawings, priced at $14,000, SOLD OUT at the NADA Fair where her gallerist Zach Feuer showed. Check out an interview with the curious Dasha here.
I would imagine New York based artist, Michael Mapes to be a very detailed and patient man that couldn’t decide between becoming an artist and a forensic investigator so, merged the two. My best description of his work would be --photographic based portraits on a scientific canvas-- if that makes any sense to you. Michael creates elaborate specimen boxes containing portraits created by cutting up hundreds of photos of the subject, throwing in their hair, nails and other DNA specimens into glass vials, gelatin capsules, magnifiers, or baggies. Got it? Best you just take a look at this point. I vote for Michael as the best forensic artist at Art Basel Miami 2012 and kudos to his gallerists at PARLOR for their bold eye. Michael is available for commisions and for a mere $2,000, you can have yourself immortalized.
While I found her at Art Platform L.A. not Miami, I wanted to share my favorite artist discovery of 2012, since we are days away from 2013.
Cairo born, Los Angeles dwelling, Sherin’s works navigate the duality of her existence in form and spirit. Arabic ornamentation is juxtaposed with Western minimalist aesthetics. The traditional reimagined within a contemporary frame. Part organic, part precise. Half flat, half three-dimensional, her works feel both ancient and modern. Her mixed media paintings feature hand-cut ornamentation with psychedelic Kool-Aid colors that pulsate with energy. Sherin’s works are ultimately a lush blend of beauty and meaning. Her works have been shown around the world and she was awarded a California Community Foundation Visual Art Fellowship in 2012. The work I have my eye on is priced at $7,000 and Santa knows which one. Curiously, Sherin is not represented in her hometown, but in San Francisco by the fine minds at Wendi Norris.
Every art collection reflects the unique personality of the collector and my picks reveal quite a bit about me. That’s what it is all about my friends. Buy what you love and you will never regret an art purchase.