Saturday, December 8, 2018

Favorite Paintings from Art Basel 2018

Rosemary, Still by Brian
Calvin (2018)
My head is still spinning from my whirlwind visit to Art Basel 2018. Despite having spent seven hours at the Miami Convention Center, I feel like I didn't get the chance to really take in the art. Nearly every one of the 268 booths had works I wanted to study, but then my FOMO (fear of missing out) would kick in and I'd move along, satisfied if not satiated.

It's ridiculously difficult to decide what to share here, so I've decided to categorize the works that most struck me in a series of posts. But that's actually not so easy. Should fiber art be considered painting? What about text-focused art? How about prints? I'm just going with the flow here and hope you'll come along on the ride.

First up is Rosemary, Still by Brian Calvin. As I roamed the aisles, I felt a little surge of happiness every time I captured a glimpse of this painting. Rosemary is just so striking and beautiful in an untraditional way.

I learned that Calvin specifically does not want to convey a story in his work. ("[A narrative] is just not compelling to me," he said in an interview with Muse magazine.) But how can you not construct a story around this woman?

I'm a Feminist. What's Your 
Superpower? (Excelsior! Leonard Raven-
Hill for Punch Magazine, 1910) 
by Andrea Bowers (2018)
I fell in love with the work of Andrea Bowers, whose paintings were on display in at least three different galleries. In this series, Bowers has taken old feminist/suffragette posters or advertisements and added her own commentary. In the drawing from which this work was taken, the words "Women's Suffrage" and "Parliament" are written on the rock and the hill, respectively. (Click here to see the original.)  Bowers has added her own text -- "I'm a Feminist. What's Your Superpower?" on the bottom right hand corner.

Another of Bowers' works features a bonneted woman standing on a barrel in front of an image of a lion with a sign that reads "Hear Me Roar." That work was inspired by an image from the Suffragette Postcard Project. Click here to see the original.

Self Portrait after Henry Taylor by
Vincent Namatjira (2018) 
While we're on political art, I also was taken with the series by Vincent Namatjira entitled "This is No Fantasy." Namatjira takes a look at the world from his perch in South Australia and provides commentary through works incorporating satire and political caricature. His work often takes a poke at the Queen given Australia's relationship with the British Empire. I particularly liked this self-portrait of Namatjira with Kim Jung Un because (1) the guy desperately needs a new hairstyle and (2) I love Henry Taylor's art and appreciate the homage. To see more of Namatjira's work, click here or here.

Physichoromie Panam 309 by Carlos Cruz-Diez (2018)

This painting by Carlos Cruz-Diez kind of blew my mind. The colors shimmer off the canvas and seem to change depending upon where you stand. You can get a sense of this phenomenon even by looking at this image from different vantage points.

It makes sense now that I know Cruz-Diez is considered one of the founders of kinetic and op art ("op" being short for optical illusion). Cruz-Diez' website describes the genre as creating "an awareness of the instability of reality." The website also explains that "a physichoromie acts as a 'light trap' in a space where a series of color frames interact [and] transform each other, generating new ranges of color not present." Cruz-Diez has been working in this field since the late 1950s. Click here to explore his website. His architectural integrations and interventions in public space are particularly exciting.

Work by Tschabalala Self
I was intrigued by what was happening in this Thierry Goldberg gallery in the "Positions" sector of Art Basel, an area that showcases projects by a single artist. In this case, the artist was Tschabalala Self.

I wandered in to take a look at this painting, which features a guy wearing a racing team shirt with a Tide detergent logo surveying a shelf filled with bottles of Tide. I like the painting, but I was baffled by the plastic crates. I swallowed my pride to ask what the story was.  (Nobody else was around, so I only had to confess my ignorance to an audience of one.) The gallerist was quite nice as she explained that the space was intended to evoke a bodega; hence, the crates. I then understood the round security mirror on the wall was art rather than, well, security. And the whole "Tide" theme suddenly made sense as well, although I suspect there's deeper meaning than, "Oh, bodegas carry laundry detergent." [Note: My friend Deb just shared an article with me about thieves stealing Tide from bodegas to trade for crack. My wildest imagination never would have gone there. Click here to read about this surprising phenomenon, which sheds probable light on Self's intentions.]

Gazing Ball (de Vos Europa) by Jeff Koons (2018)
Not all of the artists at Art Basel were new to me. But I was a little surprised to learn this work was by Jeff Koons. Koons first landed on my radar back in the 1990s with the Cicciolina controversy. (If you don't know about Cicciolina, click here.)  Koons' penchant for controversy hasn't abated over the years, with works like his Balloon Dog sculptures (a steel version of which sold for $58MM) and his porcelain sculpture of Michael Jackson with his monkey Bubbles continuing to raise eyebrows.

In his latest series, Koons has added gazing balls to painted copies of 35 masterpieces, from Manet's Luncheon on the Grass to DaVinci's Mona Lisa. (This work is a reproduction of Martin de Vos' The Rape of Europa.) Handblown gazing balls have been inserted into the paintings and enable the viewer to interact with the painting in a visible way. In an interview with The Guardian, Koons said of the concept, "This experience is about you, your desires, your interests, your participation, your relationship with this image." I love it. To read the interview, click here.

Nicole 2 by Alex Katz (2018) 
I could go on and on, but I'll wrap this post with a beautiful painting by Alex Katz. Nicole 2 reminded me of a Grecian statue and emitted a sense of calm in the midst of the chaos of Art Basel.

I have long been a fan of Katz' portraiture, which has a graphic feel. He is known for his paintings of closely cropped faces. Although he's been working in this style since the 1960s, his work always feels fresh. Interestingly, Katz has used his wife Ada as his model for at least 250 of his paintings. (For a fun interview with Ada, click here.) 

Next up: Favorite Sculptures from Art Basel 2018.







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