Art History, Contemporary Art, Culture, Travel

Art Institute of Chicago

Hello all! I know it’s been a while since I last posted but I’ve been away for some time and working lots. I promise I am working hard on keeping this blog updated. There are some really exciting things coming.

A few weeks ago, I was in Chicago for Lollapalooza and decided to visit the iconic Art Institute of Chicago (remember that scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?). It is rated the #1 museum in the world according to Tripadvisor in 2014 and I can tell why. AIC probably tops the MoMA for me with its collection of Edgar Degas and Van Gogh, and modern and contemporary art collections, I was left in awe at each corner. What I especially liked about it was it’s flow and organization. I felt like I had enough time and space to explore each room and not overwhelmed by the works or the amount of people. And not to mention its staff! I met some of the most friendly people who worked there who are always willing to talk to you.

“Linear Construction in Space No. 2” and “Linear Construction No. 4” by Naum Gabo

Frank Stella

“Hat Rack” by Marcel Duchamp

“Counter-Composition” by Theo Van Doesburg

“American Gothic” by Grant Wood (did you know that the couple in the painting is supposed to be a father and unmarried daughter? The “farmer” was actually Wood’s dentist, and the woman is Wood’s sister.)

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Francis Bacon

The AIC featured a Charles Ray exhibition- his first major exhibition since a mid career retrospective in 1998 and features four new sculptures only on view in Chicago.

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Chicago-born Ray has reinvented contemporary sculptural practice since the early 1980s using aluminum and stainless steel to create a fluid like and reflective effect in his life-size and over-life-size sculptures. His works were like nothing I’ve ever seen up close. The bas-relief sculptures from afar looked flat and linear but once you got closer you realize how the depth and perception can affect how you look at a piece. The works are created from a combination of long process of study, experimentation, and a painstakingly meticulous attention to detail, control and discipline (some of his works takes as long as ten years to make!). His pieces are utterly timeless and contemporary at the same time leaving its audiences reminiscing about childhood, sleep, ghosts, and self-portraiture as well as a combination of a new medium and ancient sculptural techniques such as bas relief.IMG_0494Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

The show is on until October 4th, and if the staff is friendly they’ll let you take some fun pictures 😉

Have any of you ever been to AIC? What were some of your favourite works?

 

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Art History, Artist Profile

Happy Birthday Frida Kahlo!

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Frida Kahlo is my spiritual animal. Not only was she a beautiful soul and talented artist, she did not have an easy life. Her work is celebrated in Mexico and also by feminists who acknowledge her depiction of female expression and experience.

Although she is sometimes classified as a Surrealist artist, she rejected that label and said her paintings reflected more of her reality than her dreams.

"The Wounded Deer" by Frida Kahlo

“The Wounded Deer” by Frida Kahlo

She has been through it all. Not only did she live through the Mexican Revolution, at six years old she contracted polio which resulted in her right leg becoming thinner than the left and as she got older, she hid this by wearing long, colourful skirts. It was also rumoured that she was born with spina bifida which would have affected her spinal and leg development.

When she was a teenager, she was in a tragic bus accident which left her with a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. Also, an iron handrail pierced her abdomen and her uterus (ouch), resulting in difficulties in reproducing. She suffered lifelong health problems including relapses of extreme pain. While recovering from her injuries she was bedridden and confined in a hospital bed for months at a time, she was isolated from her peers and began to paint her famous self-portraits which perfectly reflect this isolation and her pain. But through this experience, she was able to become the painter we all know and admire today.

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“The Broken Column” by Frida Kahlo

07512-frida-kahlo-v15 kahlo Kahlo used bright colours and dramatic symbolism and primitive style that is common with indigenous Mexican culture. Themes included the monkey, which in Mexican mythology is associated with as a symbol of lust. Kahlo used this symbol as a tender and protective symbol. She also combined themes of her familial background, and Christian, Jewish and Mexican themes were often depicted in her works.

"Self Portrait With Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird" by Frida Kahlo

“Self Portrait With Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird” by Frida Kahlo

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“My Birth” by Frida Kahlo

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“Tree of Hope, Remain Strong” by Frida Kahlo

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“Without Hope” by Frida Kahlo

If things couldn’t get worse, her marriage with another famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera was extremely volatile as they both had bad tempers and both would cheat on each other countless times. Kahlo who was 20 years younger than Diego, was bisexual and had affairs with both men and women and although Rivera didn’t care much about her female relationships, her affairs with men made him jealous. Rivera, on the other hand had an affair with Kahlo’s younger sister. Although that relationship was clearly unhealthy, we can thank Rivera for encouraging her artistic development and to pursue painting as a career. They ended up divorcing to get married again a year later but often lived separate from each other…talk about making their lives the storyline for a soup opera, am I right???

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Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

In July of 1952, Frida’s right lower leg was amputated at the knee due to gangrene. In addition she also had a case of bronchopneumonia which left her weak and ill for another two years.  Diego still at her side, attended to her anxiety attacks and still encouraged her to keep painting. Kahlo died on July 13th, 1954 and the official cause of death was stated as pulmonary embolism, although she began to increase her morphine consumption after the amputation and some suspected that she died from an overdose that may or may not have been accidental. A few days before she died, she wrote in her diary: “I hope the exit is joyful- and I hope to never return– Frida”. And even though, her relationship with Diego was rough, he stuck by her and encouraged her even on her last days because he loved her. In his autobiography, he wrote that the day Frida died was the most tragic day of his life and he realized too late that the most wonderful part of his life had been his love for her. 

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Frida has been described as: “…one of history’s grand divas…a tequila-slamming, dirty joke-telling smoker, bi-sexual that hobbled about her bohemian barrio in lavish indigenous dress and threw festive dinner parties for the likes of Leon Trotsky, poet Pablo Neruda, Nelson Rockefeller, and her on-again, off-again husband, muralist Diego Rivera.

She also been quoted to say, “I was born a bitch. I was born a painter.”

Feliz Cumpleaños to the most feistest woman ever.

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Artist Profile, Contemporary Art

Babeth Lafon

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Images from Babeth Lafon

I have found my spiritual inspiration and it comes in form of the illustrations of Babeth Lafon. You all know I have an unhealthy obsession with aesthetically pleasing and pretty things and Lafon’s illustrations just feeds it. Ever since my friend and artist, the very talented Francesca (you should also check out her website, Francesca Valvassori) introduced me to Anna and Nathan Bond from the Rifle Paper Co., I have loved the intricacy of graphic design, font design, and illustration.

Lafon is a freelance beauty and lifestyle illustrator who studied in Paris and currently lives and works in Berlin (how chic). She’s been commissioned by companies such as Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Glamour, AD Magazine, in a few L’Oréal TV Spots as well as published illustration books.

Naturally, I am obsessed and now follow her on all social media platforms. You should too.

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Art History, Artist Profile

Happy Birthday Keith Haring!

keithharingKeith Haring was born today in 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania. At an early age Haring was interested in drawing and design and eventually moved to New York City and enrolled in the School of Visual Arts. There he discovered an alternative art community including artists Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and other performance artists and musicians. This group developed outside the conventional gallery and museum setting and thrived on the streets and subway, and eventually he began to organize and participate in exhibitions and performances at Club 57 and others.

He began experimenting with performance, video, installation, and collage as well as drawing and sought to communicate with a larger audience and thought to use unused advertising panels covered with matte black paper in a subway station. Using white chalk, he produced hundreds of these public drawings between 1980 and 1985 and commuters on the subway would start to recognize and engage with the artist and his works. The subway became a “laboratory” for experimenting with his simple lines and seeing through his ideas. 

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His empire and following thrived as he completed many public projects from animation for the Spectacolor billboard in Times Square to designing watch designs for Swatch and advertisements. Throughout his career, Haring’s public works also had social messages producing works worldwide for charities, hospitals, children’s day care centres and orphanages, and also held drawing workshops for children around the world. You all know his Crack is Wack mural of 1986 and is a landmark along New York’s FDR Drive.

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In 1988, Haring was diagnosed with AIDS and founded the Keith Haring Foundation in 1989 which provides funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children’s programs while expanding the audience for his works through exhibitions, publications and licensing of his images. He even used his imagery during the last years of his life to send a message about his own illness, and generate activism and awareness about AIDS.

In his short years of being a world-renowned artist and philanthropist, he was able to reach a wide audience by expressing universal themes of birth, death, love, sex and war using simple lines to direct his message.  He died at the age of 31 from AIDS related complications on February 16, 1990 and would have turned 57 today.

“I don’t think art is propaganda; it should be something that liberates the soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further.”-Keith Haring

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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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