An artists mind never stops, and at times this can lead to the inevitable period of insomnia that occurs most nights. Tonight I was unable to get to sleep, so I decided to do some reading. I managed to plow through a couple of length articles in a recent issue of Art Forum (which has proved to be quite a good journal). I read two articles in particular that got me thinking. One was on the artist James Turrell, who works with large earth and architectural works working with light as his medium, on vastly different scales. The other article that I read was on a lesser known artist; Les Levine, a contemporary of Andy Warhol, his work is hard to pin down. He seemed to use the guises of minimalist, conceptual artist and post-minimalist as he needed to. His work is multi-disciplinary, involving elaborate multimedia installations of closed circuit television and light and sound to larger outdoor works. I am not here to delve too deeply into each artists biography or their practice for a matter of fact. This bit of writing is more about my own creative thought process. I used to think that artists like these were hacks, “bullshit artists”. But it hasn’t been until recent times that I have begun to take an interest in the conceptual part of their practice, that is to say the thoughts and ideas that they come up with before creating a work. People don’t fully appreciate the amount of planning these artists would go through just to organize one outdoor work, or even something more contained. It is this interest in these artists work that generates thought for my own practice, even though our practices vary quite dramatically, the processes of thought and concept are almost the one and the same. I think that I am just generally amazed that I managed to find artists like these interesting, and furthermore; it leading to my own practice being enriched.
So take note, read widely, don’t just read about painting if you’re a painter, or just about sculpture etc, read more, watch documentaries, interviews etc. Gain knowledge, even if you’re not an artist, just more of an art enthusiast, a collector of art etc. Anyways, I hope that this ramble made some sort of sense to whoever may be reading this, below I have linked some potential avenues of research on the aforementioned artists.
The artist Mike Kelley (American, 1954-2012) was regarded as one of the most influential members of the Contemporary Conceptual Art movement. His multimedia work, ranging from performance and installation to painting and photography, features souvenirs of popular culture, such as stuffed animals or crocheted couch throws, evoking an atmosphere of the uncanny. In his Postmodern world, the high and low are combined in philosophical investigations of contemporary society, joined with a 1950s comic book style creating absurd, sometimes humorous portrayals of the American middle class and its conceptions of the normative. Kelley studied at the University of Michigan and at the California Institute of the Arts, and was influenced by 1960s Conceptual artists. In the early 1970s, he formed his own rock band, and staged performances including photographs, objects, and drawings. In the mid-1980s, Kelley continued using found objects in his installations and focused on psychological issues in his work, treating topics such as abuse and repression as the traumatic remains of a dysfunctional society. Themes of biography and autobiography became increasingly important in his work in the 1990s. Kelley participated in the Documenta 9 and 10 art fairs in Kassel, Germany, and has held solo shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Tate Liverpool, and at the Louvre in Paris. Kelley has also received attention for his work as an art and music critic, and as a curator of numerous exhibitions.
Pansy Metal/Clovered Hoof, 1989, silkscreen on silk, 133.4 x 95.2 cm.
Yellow Banana 2, 1991, acrylic on paper, 100.3 cm x 81.3 cm.
Images and text: http://www.artnet.com/artists/mike-kelley/
Ellsworth Kelly (American, b.1923) is a painter and sculptor who established his own style amidst the pervasive influence of the Abstract Expressionist and Pop Art movements. Born in New York City, Kelly admired the works of Naturalist John James Audubon (American, 1785–1851) as a child and loved to draw, even though his parents only reluctantly permitted him to study at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. After serving during World War II for two years as a camouflage artist, Kelly was able to study on the GI Bill at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, MA, and then at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France.
Separated from the American art world while in Europe, Kelly developed his distinctive method of painting, which features canvases painted in a single color, at times in isolation and other times grouped with differently colored canvases. These works echo Kelly’s desire to separate himself from the traditional roles of composition and the artist’s hand. Kelly only returned to the US when he believed that the enthusiasm for Abstract Expressionism had died down enough to allow his work to get some visibility. By the end of the 1950s, he was internationally recognized for his monochromatic canvases, which began to take the shape of non-rectangular forms such as ovals and curves. Kelly also began to create sculptures similar to his paintings, featuring simple two-dimensional forms. In 1970, the artist moved to upstate New York, where he shifted his focus to create large outdoor sculptures concerned more with color than form. Many of his public works are now on display around the world. Kelly now lives and works in Spencertown, NY.
Sunflower II, 2004, lithograph, 37 x 29 inches.
Black Curve, 1973, lithograph, 26 x w: 26 in.
Images and text: http://www.artnet.com/artists/ellsworth-kelly/
Keith Haring (American, 1958–1990), Neo-Pop and Graffiti artist, had a short but prolific career centered on a vision to unite “high art,” urban aesthetics, and public spaces, in humorous, irreverent, and poignant works. Born in Pennsylvania, Haring attended the Ivy School of Art in Pittsburgh for two years, planning to become a commercial artist. He found this path unsatisfying, and instead chose to study at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where he met fellow artists Jean Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf. Haring immersed himself in the culture of the city’s streets and clubs, and in 1980 began covering the blank billboards on subway station walls with his Subway drawings in chalk.
Haring’s bold public art attracted the attention of top galleries, and by the early 1980s he was painting Neo-Pop works and large murals for children. In an effort to make his art widely accessible, Haring opened the Pop Shop in 1986 in downtown New York, selling commercial items adorned with his art. Haring combined cartoon imagery with graffiti, hip-hop, and urban aesthetics, frequently depicting animals, figures, commercial icons, sexual imagery, and childlike motifs in pieces both playful and apprehensive. His work became increasingly anxious and angry following his 1987 diagnosis with AIDS. Haring resolved to work harder than ever in his remaining years, creating pieces with a fervent speed and devoting his art to social action in addition to personal expression. In 1989 he established the Keith Haring Foundation, meant to promote art programs and public spaces for children and to raise consciousness about AIDs. He died in February 1990. In addition to hundreds of exhibitions held during his lifetime, Haring has had numerous retrospectives in New York, San Francisco, Paris, Tokyo, and Berlin since he passed away.
Growing, 1988. Screen print, 101.6 x 76.2 cm
Poster, Keith Haring, Fun Gallery, 1983. Poster, 61 x 44.4 cm
Images and text: http://www.artnet.com/artists/keith-haring/