Contemporary Art

Team Player Cecilia Berkovic Numbers

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Team Player is a sequential series of 100 photographs by Cecilia Berkovic of people wearing numbered clothing. She shoots with either a point and shoot or digital camera collected since spring of 2001 and is still in progress. Completing this series through daily life allows it to slowly piece itself together while challenging the idea of whether numbered clothing helps identify individuals or communities and teams.

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Architecture, Artist Profile, Culture

Throwback Thursday // The Chrysler Building

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The Chrysler Building in New York is hands down one of my favourite buildings of all time. During my trip to New York this past December, I couldn’t help but love the architecture that decorates the city that to be honest, is rare here in Toronto. It is a classic example of the Art Deco architecture using geometric patterns, and glitzy man-made materials. It was designed by an American architect, William Van Alen for Walter P. Chrysler during New York’s competitive race to build the tallest skyscraper in the late 1920’s. With the real-estate market at it’s highest at the end of the 20’s, skyscrapers were becoming a clear method for architects to make a name for themselves and skyrocket them to stardom like Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. At the same time, his ex-partner H. Craig Severence had been hired to build an even taller building- 40 Wall Street, and so in order to be the tallest building, Van Alen designed a needlelike spire in secret within the building.

It stands at 1,046 feet tall with 77 floors, and for a time the Chrysler Building was the world’s tallest building until 11 months later and the Empire State Building was erected in 1931. After it’s completion, critics mocked the idea of the spire, stating that it lacks design and too gimmicky. It’s still the world’s tallest brick building in the world, but only the 4th tallest structure today tied with The New York Times Building.

When Van Alen received the commission for the Chrysler Building, he never entered into a contract with Walter P. Chrysler and after it was completed, he requested a payment of 6 percent of the construction budget ($14 million according to American Institute of Architects standards at the time). Chrysler refused to pay and Van Alen sued him and eventually received the fee, this conduct inevitably ruined his reputation as an employable architect. In addition as a result of the Great Depression that followed and the bad critiques of his designs, his career as an architect was done and lead him towards teaching sculpture and managing his real-estate investments until his death.

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Art History, Artist Profile

Happy Birthday Jackson Pollock!

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You’ve heard of him and whether you like his work or even understand it in general, it doesn’t really matter because Jackson Pollock is probably one of the most influential American painters and abstract expressionists. Pollock was born today in 1912 and is best known for his drip paintings.

He would lay large canvases on the floor of his barn and use household paints and hardened brushes, sticks, and other odd things such as basting syringes to apply the paint. This technique of dripping and pouring paint would soon be known as action painting which allowed him to move freely within his canvas and paint from any direction. He had once said, “My painting does not come from the easel. I prefer to tack the unstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.”

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“Lavender Mist” (1950)

You may just think that Pollock’s paintings are just splatters on a piece of canvas, but physicists have studied his works and techniques and concluded that some works display the properties of mathematical fractals that couldn’t be replicate by others. According to these physicists, these qualities grew as he continued in this technique and the artist might have tried to express mathematical chaos through chaotic motion. Later in his career he began numbering his works so we would have an more objective view of his pieces, and unfortunately we will never fully know what Pollock was intending for us to see. However, he was once quoted saying, “painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is”.

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Me standing in front of “One: Number 31” (1950) at MoMA this past December

I remember when I was in high school we had to watch a documentary on Pollock. Obviously, I was familiar with his work but I had no idea what kind of struggles he faced as an artist and also as a human being. Even with all the fame and support he had when he was alive, he was an extremely private man with a volatile personality and struggled with alcoholism for most of his life. Eventually at the age of 44, he died in an alcohol-related single-car accident while driving with his mistress and another passenger. Psychologists now have identified that he might have bi-polar disease.

In 1945, he married Lee Krasner, another American artist who is probably the biggest reason why we all know who Jackson Pollock is. She managed his estate and career even after his death.

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Contemporary Art, Culture

Nicolas Cage is God

We all love to hate Nicolas Cage. No matter how many times National Treasure is on TV, I can’t help but sit there and watch the whole movie… every. single. time. Not only that but he seems to be dominating the internet one meme at a time. But none other are bigger fans of Nicolas Cage than Californians.

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Images from Google Search

What is it that makes us love Nicolas Cage so much? Is it his peculiar acting methods or odd personal life and hobbies? He collects comic books because he believes them to be the equivalent of today’s pagan mythology, suffers from vertigo, and has a tattoo of a monitor lizard wearing a silky top hat on his upper back. The bigger question is what ISN’T there to love about him?

Recently in San Francisco, California Nicolas Cage is God an exhibition of Cage-themed artworks opened for one Saturday evening. Ezra Croft, an avid fan of Nic Cage and creator of this exhibition posted Craigslist advertisements all over the world asking for contributions. He totalled at about 80 participants around the globe- both lovers and haters of Cage.

According to John Metcalfe, a correspondent for The Atlantic Cities attended the show, Nicolas Cage Is God, “just dominated the block. Long lines that formed early were patrolled by suit-wearing bouncers enforcing occupancy regulations. Inside, people were wearing creepy, eyeless Cage masks and the gaudy garb of the actor’s sad-sack hero from Raising Arizona. A burlesque dancer twirled her goods on stage wearing Cage-faced pasties.”

Here are some photographs from Metcalfe’s visit:

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On a side note: I spent about one hour throughly enjoying looking at Nicolas Cage memes…no judgements.

Cheers to the man, the legend…Nicolas Cage.

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Contemporary Art, Culture

The Effect of the Charlie Hebdo Massacre on Art

Many of you have already heard of the devastating attack at the Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris yesterday. Today, France has declared a national day of mourning and artists and cartoonists around the world have lobbied to stand up for freedom of speech and show the world that art will not succumb to violence and intimidation.

What makes this effort even more effective is the huge reaction which flooded social media since the massacre. Last night, Bansky posted a picture on his instagram of a pencil which, broken today, turns into two sharper pencils tomorrow. Hours after the attacks, a French cartoonist Boulet tweeted, “Les canards voleront toujours neplus haut que les fusil” or “Ducks [French slang for newspapers] will always reach higher than guns”. Steve Bell, the cartoonist of The Guardian depicts the attackers in skeleton onesies and Mickey Mouse ears confused about why the world is laughing at them. This tribute is perhaps the best that supports the Charlie Hebdo attitude and sharp humour.

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From left to right: Banksy, Boulet, Steve Bell, Philippe Hencho, Satish Acharya, Noreena Hertz, David Pope, Steven Stardom

Art has and always has been a method for us to understand the enormity of the events that are happening around us and as a reaction to the horrifying things that humans can do to humankind. But after these attacks, it’s obvious that we need more than this to stand up to violence. The massacre of the Charlie Hebdo staff prove that art, humour, irony, and culture cannot be just where individuals are able to express ideas but can come off as genuine threats to extremists. Art resonates with people and we need more art that challenges politics and supports basic human rights.

My heart and prayers go out to France and also to everyone because this effects us all. The world is a damn crazy place.

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