Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Graphic Action

On this Inauguration Day, moments after President Barack Hussein Obama has been sworn into office, I am so moved and must raise my voice to the throng!

As part of his acceptance speech, President Obama has called Americans to service. He has reminded our nation of that its greatest value is in our ability to make change by being the change ourselves, that we have a generosity of spirit that defies boundaries. He has called upon this spirit, asking us to use our talents and ingenuity to be contributors to our communities. The pundits say this is a call to sacrifice, the spiritual will say that is really a gift.

At this moment, as an artist, I cannot help but remember one aspect of Obama's campaign journey -- the Hope poster (see above). Originally designed and printed by Shepherd Fairey, who offered the design as a free download off of his website, this image metamorphosed from a mere campaign promo to an icon of American ideals. A screen print of which has recently been acquired by the Smithsonian Museum, to read the details, visit here.

I call upon artists to remember these two concepts - this call to service, and the power of art to influence. That through our art, as evidenced not only by Shepherd Fairey, but by artists like Lorraine Schneider, Tim Rollins and K.O.S, by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, the Love Armor Project, the Combat Paper Project, in the past through projects like the WPA, artists of this country, particularly those in the graphic arts like printmaking, have the ability to capture, define, and impact the moment. I have always believed, some would say held faith, in the hope that art can make the world better. Images have the ability to go beyond their maker -- how many Americans can identify the Hope poster as the work of Shepherd Fairey? Does it mattter? -- to become instruments of transformation. Because of this, I call upon all artists to consider ways to use their talents and their creativity as service to larger ideals and a greater whole.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Reading in Bubbles at the Crane

Susan White's installation read, on view in the Inliquid Space at the Crane Arts Building until February 28, creates an ethereal world of mark, motion and material.

Based on patterns of marbleized paper, she has created a layered world with an airy sense of motion that carries viewers' eyes through the entire space. As viewers become engaged, they are drawn in closer, by altered books and plastic droplets backed with text attached directly to the wall (see photo above, by the Graphic Conscience).

It appears that White created this directly on the wall, using the space itself as a substrate like paper or canvas, turning the entire hallway into a unified artwork. As a textual piece, read is one of the most original and subtle that I have seen in a while. It is almost as if White somehow dissolved the visual elements of the book itself, setting them free in diaphanous form through a method of book art witchcraft, simultaneously causing words to condense like dew.

White's installation is by far the best I have seen in the Inliquid Space to date. Her installation is a testament to a mature vision and the ability to work site-specifically. Some of the installations that have previously presented in that space have felt incomplete or disconnected from the environment itself. White's installation succeeds fantastically.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Patterns, Neckties, and the Apocalypse at Rebekah Templeton - Where else?

As a lover of repetition and pattern, Second Thursday was great for my soul. Between Sue White's installation Read at the Inliquid Space at the Crane Arts Building (keep your eyes peeled for a future post!), and Dan Schank's Up At Night at Rebekah Templeton Contemporary Art, I was well sated with patterns.

Schank works in what is the generally overly popular style based in a mix of graphic novels, comic books, tatoos, cartoons, "untrained" artists, and skateboarding. Usually when I see painting like Schank's, I often feel that they would be much better as screen prints, which would infuse them with an immediacy and an awareness of their markmaking that would improve them exponentially. However, I sense that such painters, with their typical contempt for anything but their own medium, want to make "Real Art," so they have to be paintings.

However, Schank's gouache and cut paper works transcends this philosophy of mine. Schank is expressing in a very fresh way this young, graphic outlook on the world. Yet at the same time, he is the next step in its evolution, with a mature sense of content other than just what's cool that particular second. He incorporates textures and patterns together without overwhelming the viewer, clearly he has a gift for being able to create exactly the right texture he needs. At the same time, he has an exacting attention to detail, yet manages to control negative space and leave open areas for his viewers to breathe in his convoluted landscapes.

The apocalypse is a popular theme for artists right now. Generally, when something becomes fashionable, I develop a certain disdain for it, and want to make sure my own work goes completely in the opposite direction. Yet Schank's lighthearted works avoid the typical didactic feel that underlies such themes. He depicts dark landscapes haunted by impish neckties and laundry. Viewers are torn between the dual senses of the dire and the playful.

(As a final note, despite what I said before, I encourage Schank to venture into printmaking. His graphic sensibility will translate beautifully and the processes will expand and open his sense of play and composition. Trust me).

Up All Night will be on view until February 28, 2009. I encourage those who haven't ventured into Kensington yet to visit gems like Rebekah Templeton, to make the effort soon and not miss this exhibition.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Gender on the Book Arts Jet Set

Mary Tasillo, blogger of the Book Arts Jet Set, has a recent and insightful post about road literature and women writers. To read her thoughts, visit here.