If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Street Art of San Francisco: Maestrapeace

*photos by Leo Hartshorn

Last week my wife and I took a short vacation to San Francisco. We love the city and the Bay area where we lived two different times for 7 years. When I was in seminary from 1975-78 we went to a congregation in SF in the Mission District. On our visit to SF last week we spent a day looking at murals in the Mission District. Earlier I had bought the book Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo edited by Annice Jacoby for Precita Eyes Muralists with a forward by Carlos Santana, which featured murals from the Mission District.

One of the murals I just had to see was the Maestrapeace mural covering the Women's building at 3543 18th Street . The multicultural mural was painted in 1994 by seven women, Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Meera Desai, Yvonne Littleton, and Irene Perez and features many women figures, including Audre Lord, Georgia O'Keefe, and Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum. 500 women's names adorn the mural along with fabric patterns from diverse cultures around the world. It is an amazing mural!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Abdul Mati Klarwein: visionary surrealist artist

I have been fan of Klarwein's art going back to the 60's. Having seen his painting Annunciation on Santana's Abraxas album, I was hooked on his amazing visions. His artwork was associated with the psychedelic art of the 60's. In the 1976 bought a book of his artwork God Jokes: the art of Abdul Mati Klarwein for $4.95. A copy today costs from $50-$100 plus dollars. I won't sell mine! I rank him up there with my favorite artist Salvador Dali for his technichal realism and surrealistic vision.

Klarwein studied with surrealist artist Salvador Dali and visionary painter Ernst Fuchs. His style reflects both influences. His international and multicultural experience are also evident in his work in his landscapes, dieties, and iconography. Though raised Jewish, he changed his name to "Abdul" in the late 50s as a witness against Jewish and Muslim hostilities.

Klarwein is known for his album covers, like Santana's Abraxis and Miles Davis' Bitches Brew among many others. The detail on his paintings is amazing. He paints every single rock on a landscape and creates ethereal light with his colors. I'm still hooked on Klarwein's artwork.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Robert Williams' Low Brow Art


Robert Williams is the a key figure in low brow art movement. He probably coined the phrase himself with the title of his first art book, The Lowbrow Art of Robert Williams. Lowbrow art, sometimes called pop surrealism, is the opposite of "high brow" art (fine gallery art of the cultured elite), a kind of unsophisticated popular art that grew out of hot rod culture, underground comix, punk rock, and other subcultures. Williams was one of its earliest artists, first doing art for Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, and a contemporary promoter with his magazine Juxtapoz started in 1994.

Williams love for custom car culture is exhibited throughout his work, as well as an adolescent libido! His paintings use a bright pallette and realistic technique to create bizarre images from the blender of his mind with long obscure titles that reflect the painting's symbolism. I probably appreciated his artwork as a young adolescent in the early 60s through Ed Roth and am still fascinated by his images.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Shepard Fairey: Remixing Icons for Peace

Shephard Fairey is most popularly known as the artist who produced the "Hope" poster for the Obama presidential campaign (above). He produced 500,000 Hope posters and 300,000 stickers. It was discovered that his image of Obama was a copy of a photo taken by Mannie Garcia while on assignment for Associated Press, who after its enoormous success wanted credit and compensation for the work. Aside from legal issues, Garcia appreciated what Fairey did with his photo. Fairey brought a counter lawsuit against AP claiming his use of the image was protected in the "fair use" doctrine and was not an infringement of copyright.

Fairey has come under criticism for appropriating the images of others without giving credit or compensation for their work and particularly social movements and artists of color (http://motherjones.com/politics/2008/03/interview-shepard-fairey and http://nyc.indymedia.org/or/2008/06/97988.html). Artist Mark Vallen has written a particularly scathing critique of Fairey's "plagarism" (http://www.art-for-a-change.com/Obey/index.htm#m). Vallen's critique has been analysed and Fairey's appropriation of images defended at SuperTouch (http://supertouchart.com/2009/02/02/editorial-the-medium-is-the-message-shepard-fairey-and-the-art-of-appropriation/).

One might compare what Fairey does with appropriated images to what rap and hip-hop artists do with remixing or dubbing in Jamaica. They take a master recording of someone else's song and alter it's tempo, beat, dynamics, lyrics, or loop a riff and make it their own. The original song is recognizable, but becomes a new song in the remix. On a visual level artists, like Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol, have been doing this type of "remixing" of icons for a long time. In a similar manner Fairey appropriates icons from social movements or photos and reworks them, artistically remixes them and makes them his own.

He has "remixed" some photos of soldiers by adding flowers, a symbolic act found in the iconic 1967 photo of a hippie placing flowers in the rifles of the National Guard troops. Or transforms old images by adding words against war or utilizes peace slogans from the 60s. Thus, Fairey remixes icons for peace.