Posts tagged with "Pop Art":

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A look at the flimsy architectural stage sets of William Leavitt

When reflecting on the recent art and architecture scene of Los Angeles, a familiar cadre of names will typically come to mind; Ed Ruscha, Frank Gehry, John Baldessari, and Thom Mayne, to name a few. But beyond the figures that have famously channeled the city’s flair for the dramatic into their creative work, there is at least one artist that has made the spotlight his artistic subject while avoiding it for himself altogether. William Leavitt, now 78, has been quietly producing art about the uniquely modern spectacle of Los Angeles and its built environment since the late 1960s. Leavitt was stunned by the scale of Los Angeles and the hold the movie industry had on the city when he arrived in 1965. Part of a generation that reacted against the plain functionality of modernism in favor of a burgeoning commercial language designed for mass appeal, Leavitt continues to produce illustrations and sculptures which pay special attention to the architecture and interior design aesthetic present in the soap operas, furniture showrooms and suburban basements of the time. Like Ruscha and Gehry, Leavitt was an out-of-towner fascinated by the hastily constructed buildings that popped up around Los Angeles during the 1950s and 60s. But that would be selling Leavitt’s inspirations short. The artist skillfully conflated the kitsch and thinly veiled constructions of mid-century America with the sparse beauty of stage set design employed in so many of Hollywood’s movie studios and independent theatres. In 1988, he wrote about the first time he visited the backlot of a movie studio: “I loved the deception of going up to one of those perfect houses and opening the door and seeing that there was nothing but canvas and 2x4s holding it up. I thought that was spectacular: all the bricks were made of composition board.” The unique balance of image and reality on display throughout the city’s built environment is Leavitt’s primary source of inspiration. While the minimal stage sets of movies and plays are designed to appear more complete to their audiences fixed in place, Leavitt invites his audience to study his sets up close and in the round. As Ann Goldstein described his work, it “tak[es] into account the theatrical potential of the ordinary” while “considering the significance of every detail - location, lighting, atmosphere, props, and sound - and, like a set designer, he assembles a scene where every element plays a role.” One of his most well-known installations, California Patio (1972) is a sculpture depicting an entire setting: a freestanding sliding glass door between blue curtains framing a truncated woodchip garden. The materials of the entire piece might well have been purchased at a local hardware store, yet they become more than the sum of their parts; the 2x4s holding up the structure are more cleanly nailed and the sandbags more delicately placed than what is typically hidden from the screen or the stage. Leavitt’s illustrations, meanwhile, are reminiscent of those used by art directors to describe a stage set to a production crew. In Electric Chair (Interior) (1983), for example, efficiently depicts a sparse basement in which function and utility might be easily be confused for one another.
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Alex Da Corte's dark, comical, and sinister spectacle "Free Roses" at Mass MoCA

In April, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) opened a vibrant multi-part installation and survey of works from the Philadelphia-based artist Alex Da Corte. Titled Free Roses, the show is a dark, comical, and sinister spectacle that highlights the opulence of kitsch objects. Mediums on display include paintings, sculptures, videos, and photography within a palatial environment of plush carpeting, mirror-striped floors, and multi-hued neon lighting. Rarely do the works within a museum exceed the sum of their own parts and generate a surplus environment in the way Free Roses accomplishes.

Da Corte is an artist within the tradition of pop and surrealism known for frequently collaborating with and borrowing the work of artists to remix objects and environments to represent mass consumer culture. While themes of anxiety, the uncanny, and the everyday dominate the individual works, the subject of the Free Roses show is actually architecture. Recent projects by Da Corte have been immersive installations that play with the malleability of time, the fluidity of space, and the design of cinematic narratives as an invisible and plastic architecture. Free Roses continues within this trajectory and presents a cinematic and spatial mise-en-scène that, more than any other recent contemporary show, brings questions and conversations about the relationship between art, architecture, site, and installation to the forefront.

Such a conversation may have been drowned by the recent seemingly nonstop announcements of museum expansions. Mass MoCA is no exception; a campus in the former factory town of North Adams, the museum has been expanding for 25 years. Recently it announced the rehabilitation and renovation of a factory building, led by the firm Bruner/Cott, that will bring an additional 120,000 square feet of gallery space. The plans include a long-term installation of immersive light environments by artist James Turell. However, unlike the vast contemplative empty spaces of a Turell work, Free Roses is a transportive, neon-lit fantasy world loaded with cultural signifiers, reminiscent of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s descriptions of the Las Vegas strip.

New work from Da Corte, in the form of a sprawling ensemble, is the centerpiece of Free Roses and is presented as a sequence of sculptural tableaux and amalgams of spatialized memories. Set within eight zones, framed by a floored square parcels and hanging square neon lights, the viewer is free to walk in-between and around the taut environment of literal free-floating signifiers. Titled Lightning, the installation is a reference to the Joseph Beuys sculpture Lightning with Stag in its Glare, which is on long-term view at Mass MoCA. Inspiration for the elements of Lighting are taken from a mixture of experience in a suburban home and films such as Singin’ in the Rain, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Beetlejuice and A Clockwork Orange. All together, the work presents the idea of a modern home and its inhabitant’s mind deconstructed and made undone, both literally and figuratively. The first tableau is of a house with only a freestanding facade. The seven surrounding pieces are hazy memories of life within its interior: plastic swans circling in a pool of pink water, a giant tissue box, a stuffed-dog walking in an infinite loop, an oversized Coca-Cola can, and an off-scale pool table, among others. These neon plastic and camp works leave a nightmarish impression of memories turned sequenced film stills.

Da Corte skillfully manipulates the familiar to produce a sense of jamais vu, the uncanny feeling that something seen many times before is suddenly strange and unfamiliar. Free Roses additionally includes important past works from the 35-year-old artist’s growing portfolio. Easternsports is a four-channel video installation projected on four monumental freestanding walls that envelop viewers into the three-hour long video piece. The interiors and architecture within the piece are uncanny and nearly disturbing in symmetry, pattern, and color—all of which spill out into the gallery space containing the piece. This vibe permeates through both the work and the gallery, creating a fluidity of space and malleability of time that persists through Free Roses.

When speaking about his work in relation to architecture, Da Corte said in Interview Magazine: “It’s something else that’s about making a space vibrate in terms of strange energies or something in the room. You have to physically build that into a space, but then it has to recede.”

The final tableau of Lightning is a sculptural rendition of the iconic ending to the Looney Tunes cartoons, but with the “That’s all Folks!” missing. As it naturally should, the spatial-cinematic show continues with Scene 2. The culmination of Free Roses is the aforementioned Lightning—it is one of the most theatrical installations and one that depicts a natural and primordial scene within the arrangement of its elements. Scene 2 builds on the theatrics and contributes green fluorescent lights, carpeting, essential pine oils for scent, and an ambient soundtrack by the musician Dev Hynes, and in doing so casts all new meanings onto Beuys’s work. With Free Roses Da Corte masterfully blurs the distinction between art and architecture with a formless cinematic aesthetic.

Free Roses is open at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art through January 2017.

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Signs of life: Artist Steve Powers tacks thought-provoking 'ICY Signs' around New York City

Manhattan-based artist Steve Powers is offering a non-caffeinated pick-me-up for weary NYC commuters with his pop art–style street signs mounted on light poles around the city. Bearing food-for-thought slogans with themes of life and love against a pictograph or logotype, such as "I get lost to get found" stamped on a briefcase, the signs are designed to inspire smiles and/or introspection.   Titled ICY Signs, the temporary public art signage project takes after traditional handpainted signs. Powers uses the common sign as a tool to overstate the importance of signs to guide us through a confusing world. "It’s drag yourself to work day," reads one. Another depicts a lighthouse stamped with the word "You" beaming light onto the word "Me." The artist envisioned the signage as an emotional wayfinding system which encourages pedestrians to not only navigate the city streets but explore their own inner alleys and avenues. The 30 signs are being exhibited at four of the intersections earmarked as Summer Streets – part of an annual celebration of car-free NYC streets in which seven miles of streets are reappropriated by pedestrians and cyclists for three consecutive Saturdays in August. Powers’ artwork will go up at four Summer Streets rest stops: Midtown at 25th Street and Park Avenue; Astor Place at Astor Place and Lafayette Street; SoHo at Spring Street and Lafayette Street, with the majority to be displayed at Foley Square at Duane Street and Center Street.
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On View> "Thomas Bayrle: Chrysler Tapete" Opens September 6 at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

Thomas Bayrle: Chrysler Tapete Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis 3750 Washington Blvd, St. Louis, MO September 6, 2013 to October 27, 2013 From September 6 to October 27, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and chief curator Dominic Molon present Chrysler Tapete (1970) as part of the institution’s ongoing Front Room program. One of a series of wallpaper works that German artist Thomas Bayrle has produced since the late 1960s, Chrysler Tapete features the repeated image of an automobile until its distinctiveness subsides into a colossal collectiveness. The purpose is to signify the tension between positive, shared experiences and the feeling of oppressive uniformity. Bayrle, a leader in European Pop Art—frequently referred to as Grey Pop—continues to experiment with painting, sculpture, fashion, and graphic design and currently lives and works in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Through solo and group exhibitions, his objective is to uncover how our society of mass production and consumption influences our understanding of the world. Bayrle investigates how physical space, scale, and pattern influence the observer. Chrysler Tapete, consisting of silkscreen print on paper, has an intense visual presence that provides visitors with a new way to experience the exhibition space itself, a fitting role as the installation coincides with the tenth anniversary of the Contemporary Art Museum’s building.