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Art News and Updates from Gallereo

All the latest news from the art world, as well as what's happening here at Gallereo. If you've built a gallery at Gallereo, let us know about your experience and you and your site could feature in our blog in the coming weeks.

Friday 20th March 2015Artist Spotlight: Jackson Pollock

One of the most interesting artists of the last century is the American artist Jackson Pollock. Since we're just entering the Spring season properly, and one of Pollock's most famous periods was named the Springs period, it only seemed appropriate that we stop to take a look at him and his work in this edition of the Artist Spotlight. Even though we normally look at artists who are currently active, and Pollock passed away back in the mid-1950's, his influence on modern art is undeniable.

As a pioneer of the abstract expressionist school, Pollock is incredibly famous for the unique style of his artwork, commonly known as 'drip painting'. If you've ever seen a single Pollock, the reason for the name will be immediately apparent. The entire style is characterized by spatters and droplets, thrown against the canvas with a wild abandon. The Springs period we mentioned earlier was the time in his career when he established himself as an artist to watch, creating some of his most famous works in the converted studio of his home in the neighbourhood of Springs, in East Hampton, Long Island. Interestingly, as he was being lauded for his work in the style, as Life magazine featured him in a four page spread that asked the question, "Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?" he abruptly decided to change his style, and completely distanced himself from the drip painting style he is so famous for.

Unfortunately, like many great artists, he struggled with substance abuse, and his excessive alcoholism has been attributed as the cause of his death, which occurred in 1954 as a result of a single-vehicle automobile accident. His legacy, however, is best summed up in this excerpt from a book on his life and work by Pepe Karmel:

"Pollock’s finest paintings… reveal that his all-over line does not give rise to positive or negative areas: we are not made to feel that one part of the canvas demands to be read as figure, whether abstract or representational, against another part of the canvas read as ground. There is not inside or outside to Pollock’s line or the space through which it moves…. Pollock has managed to free line not only from its function of representing objects in the world, but also from its task of describing or bounding shapes or figures, whether abstract or representational, on the surface of the canvas."

Posted on March 20th 2015 on 10:51pm

Wednesday 18th March 2015Spring Cleaning Inspiration

At long, long last, it's that time again! This winter has been an incredibly punishing one for most of North America, despite warmer than average temperatures in much of the rest of the world, but no matter how your winter went, it's always a relief to see the Sun finally starting to break through the Winter blahs and being a sense of renewal and rebirth to the world. Apologies if you love in the Southern hemisphere, which is of course just sliding into Autumn, but since most of you live in the Northern hemisphere, enjoy!

As we said, Spring is most commonly associated with growth and rebirth, as it has been for thousands of years, and as artists, we are more sensitive than most to the value of themes and symbols. They drive much of our work, even as they shape much of our thoughts, so it only seems natural that the world around us should provide some of those themes as well. Typically, this brings to mind Spring cleaning, when the home is given a once or twice over to get rid of unused items and make way for a new year of life. But when it comes to your artistic practice, many of us are loathe to dig through our work and clean up.

Those of you lucky enough to have a studio space to work in would do well to take the opportunity to clean things out - come on, you know there are some old supplies somewhere in there that you'll never be able to use again! There's something about the creative mind that often tends towards clutter (and several studies linking clutter with creativity, which seems to make perfect sense), but it can still be refreshing to clean out the old clutter, even if it's just to make room for this year's new clutter. Even if all you do is rearrange things and put some things away, changing your space in the smallest ways can still make a huge different in the way you interact with it.

Refreshing rebirth doesn't simply have to apply to your workspace, however. Spring can also be a great time to explore new artistic avenues and new styles, to finish up old projects so that there is room and time to start new ones. Let yourself embrace Spring, and all that it entails, and hopefully your artistic career will be reborn after a long Winter. Happy Spring, and happy creating, everyone!

Posted on March 18th 2015 on 02:04pm

Friday 13th March 2015Genre Spotlight: Surrealism

We're going to be starting a new recurring series here at Gallereo, in a similar vein to our Artist Spotlight series, but taking a broader view and looking at artistic genres as a whole. Our hope is that we'll be able to give a bit of a bigger picture of the movements that lie behind and surround some of the world's most popular artists, and maybe even inspire some of you to experiment with new genres that you otherwise might have ignored! To that end, we start the series today with a quick look at Surrealism, that most whimsical and mystifying of all artistic genres.

First getting started in the 1920s in Europe, Surrealism originally had two opposing parties of artists who squabbled over the usage and priority of the term. These arguments got so heated that at one point, the leaders of the two factions, Andre Breton and Yvan Goll, actually got into a physical fight in the middle of the Champs Elysee in Paris, France. Breton's faction eventually proved the stronger, though history does not seem to relate who won the fistfight.

His unique definition of Surrealism also triumphed, as he describes it:
Dictionary: Surrealism, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.

Encyclopedia: Surrealism. Philosophy. Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends to ruin once and for all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principal problems of life.

Some of the most famous Surrealist artists are household names, now viewed with reverence: Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Rene Magritte and Joan Miro, not to mention Andre Breton himself, are names that every art student has run across, and their popularity is still evident in university campuses around the world, who regularly feature shows, film festivals, and other celebrations of the Surrealist canon. Much of what we regard as postmodern has roots and themes that can be traced back to the Surrealist movement, and that leaves much of today's popular art an evolving legacy of the Surrealists. 

Posted on March 13th 2015 on 01:01pm

Wednesday 11th March 2015DNA Artwork

One of the things we own almost intrinsically is our DNA. Actually, there is some speculation about the legal precedents involved in the situation, but regardless, nothing is more definitively "you" than your DNA. It defines every element of your physical makeup - though fortunately, for all of us, our experiences can still shape who we are as people, but to what extent? How much of our life is defined by our DNA? How much of our identities are defined by our DNA? These are the questions that artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg hopes to explore with her new project, "Stranger Visions", currently on display at the Clocktower Gallery in New York City.

The inspiration for the project struck Dewey-Hagborg as she walked the streets of New York. Despite large improvements over the last few decades, New York is still somewhat dirty, the way any big city is, but a large part of this garbage is a product of human usage - and every single time we touch something, we leave some kind of genetic trace material behind. Whether it's chewing gum, a coffee cup, or a stray hair, we leave our most private genetic information almost everywhere in our wake. Dewey-Hagborg decided to see what could be constructed from these remains, and began collected samples all across the city.

"It's meant to highlight questions of genetic privacy, and also point to questions of how technology like this might be used in the future," Dewey-Hagborg said in an interview with science news blog LiveScience. "I hope that when a viewer comes into the gallery, they question their own genetic privacy and think about the things that inspired me to do this in the first place."

Using genetic sequencing and 3D printing, she has created a series of facial reconstructions that adorn the walls of the gallery space. While it's difficult (or perhaps impossible) to recreate facial morphology perfectly from genetic markers, it's still possible to get a general sense of who these people were. The end result is more of a sketch, despite the realistic expressions that are visible on each face, hence the name of the show. After its stint at the Clocktower, the show will be moving to the Genspace gallery in June, and eventually to Long Island and then on to Mexico City. 

Posted on March 11th 2015 on 05:32pm

Friday 06th March 2015A New Twist on Art Therapy

Art therapy is a process whereby medical patients use the practice of art as both a means of self-expression and as a means of distraction during extended periods of recovery. While still a relatively new discipline, the practice has been around since the middle of the 19th century, when British artist Adrian Hill was recovering from a bout of tuberculosis and discovered the powerful impact of art on his state of mind during recovery. He began to encourage the practice of creating art to other patients in the hospital he was staying, and eventually the practice began to catch on. He was eventually joined by Edward Adamson, another British artist and WW2 veteran, who brought the practice into common usage in British mental hospitals.

Typically, in the modern era, these practices are managed by art therapists who have undergone professional training. Nothing nearly as rigorous as medical school, which may be partly to blame for the disdain that medical doctors sometimes exhibit for the practice, but thanks to one pioneering medical school teacher, that entire perspective may change. At the University of British Columbia in Canada, Carol-Ann Courneya has been asking her med students to experiment with art, for the express purpose of making them better doctors.

"Art making can be really instrumental in making students more well rounded and empathetic doctors," says Courneya, who teaches in the Department of Cellular & Physiological Sciences. At first blush, this might seem a bit of an unlikely route for so practical and hard-headed a discipline as medicine, but the pressures of med school have been known to make more than a few students crack and abandon their career trajectory over the years. "Medical students, residents, and even practising physicians are telling us that they're using art to decompress from the stress of medical training," Courneya continues.

Hopefully, this will not only produce a generation of doctors that are both more empathic and well-rounded, as she mentions, but also those who have a much more ecumenical approach to the healing power of art in the medical environment. Many hospitals are already filled with impressive, and in some cases even museum-quality artworks, but the general acceptance of the power of creativity and self-expression may be a bit slower to become acceptable medical practice. Here's hoping that art - and artists - can prove how empirically valuable it can be.

Posted on March 06th 2015 on 04:50pm
Labels: art, medicine, therapy

Wednesday 04th March 2015Germany's Last Banksy Defaced

For a long, long time, street art struggled to shake off the public perception that it was nothing more than flagrant vandalism with a coat of paint. With the help of a large and dedicated community, along with more prominent individual artists such as Banksy who have grown into almost household names, street art is finally beginning to be accepted as a legitimate art form, one who may be more true to the emotive and impactful nature of art that much of what is being produced in more traditional art spheres.

Sometimes, however, it's impossible to shake off the reality that vandalism, graffiti and street art all share a common root and may suffer the same ills. This was never more true than last month, when the last surviving piece of street art by Banksy in Germany was defaced by a vandal. The piece, a stencil entitled 'Bomb Hugger', found on a concrete pillar in Hamburg, had actually been protected by a local arts group, the Spiegelberger Foundation, in 2011 to prevent just this sort of casual destruction. A piece of clear plexiglass was riveted around the edges of the work, preventing most of the potential damages, but the clever vandal figured out a way around this - using spray paint. The word 'graffiti' was spray painted thickly just above the upper edge of the plexiglass, so thickly that paint dripped down from the letters and seeped in behind the cover to drip down over the stencil itself  

While there is a certain frustrating yet undeniable irony that the vandal spray painted the word 'graffiti', some small voice in the back of the mind wonders if this might not be a stunt by Banksy himself in response to the sudden fame that has found him. Alternatively, now that Banksy pieces are becoming quite valuable to collectors, it's possible that someone is attempted to drive up the value of their own pieces by destroying others that are outside of the traditional protections afforded to most artwork by galleries and their accompanying security staff.

It's hard to tell if it's casual insensitivity, a calculated plot, or who knows what, but inexplicable the Hamburg police department insists that the piece was undamaged by the vandalism, although it appears now that the majority of the blue spraypaint has been removed and the piece has been restored as much as possible.

Posted on March 04th 2015 on 05:00pm

Saturday 28th February 2015Selfie Stick Bans

Back in January, there was an article here on Gallereo about a new phenomenon that's changing that most post-modern of new media art forms, the selfie. Snicker all you like, but it's hard to deny how the term has captured the popular imagination, and by extension, no surprise that someone cashed in by developing what is essentially a hand-held tripod, used to extend the compositional range of your selfportrait. It grips your phone, and the camera's shutter is triggered remotely by a button in the handle.

It's that last part that got them into trouble originally in South Korea, where the devices were first banned, but that trend is spreading almost as fast as the selfies they enable. Major museums and galleries in cities around the world have begun to prohibit their use, and for a wide variety of reasons. The primary issue seems to be that they're concerned the devices will completely disrupt the atmosphere, and in some cases, actually damage the works of art themselves. Oddly enough, many stress that they haven't actually had any issues with the devices as of yet, but hardly a week goes by when another blurb is splashed across the internet that yet another museum or gallery has announced a prohibition against their use.

One would think that this is simply a logical extension of the standard museum and gallery line, which variously prohibits flash photography and the usage of tripods, but perhaps a bit of free publicity is just too tempting to turn down. In the more general public sector, those who criticize the devices seem to find them obnoxious, which is probably simply an extension of their hatred of the entire selfie concept. In the art museum sphere, it seems that the main fear is vandalism - and on the surface, that seems plausible, except that it ignores a simple fact of human nature. If someone is going to be so insensitive and boorish as to damage priceless works of art, they're going to do it anyways, whether they have a selfie stick or not, and banning the sticks isn't going to remove the keys and coins in their pockets which could do exactly the same job. We should simply be doing our best to create a respectful atmosphere where our own enjoyment doesn't need to compromise the enjoyment of others.

Posted on February 28th 2015 on 03:38am

Wednesday 25th February 2015Remember the $6.5 Million Dollar Photo?

A little while ago, we wrote about the biggest sale price ever achieved for a photograph. The photograph, Phantom by Peter Lik, reportedly sold for $6.5 million dollars, blowing away any other possible contenders for the title. Naturally, the art world went a bit bananas about it, and social media was even worse (though that shouldn't really surprise anyone, at this stage of the game. We expressed a few reservations about the closed-door nature of the sale, which meant that not only was the buyer's name not released, the private sale didn't offer any way to verify this sale price. It may be that those reservations were well founded.

According to a recent article by the New York Times, the entire thing may simply be a clever usage of the media and their readiness to trumpet astonishing headlines. There is little doubt that the sale actually took place, but it's hardly fair to compare it to the works of the previous record holders, Andreas Gursky and Cindy Sherman, who garned $4.3 and $3.9 million respectively in 2011, both of which were sold in full view of the public in a traditional auction setting.

Speaking to the New York Times about Phantom and the sale headlines, Michael Hoppen, a London gallery owner, said, "It’s an abomination. Art, whatever the medium, is something that moves and informs you or changes your opinion. This has nothing to do with art or creative photography, and the tragedy is that it brings the whole business down."

He may very well have a point. Lik has apparently been frustrated by his lack of critical acclaim, despite being one of - if not the - most financially successful fine art photographers in the world. Art critics are rarely swayed by money, priding themselves on the quality and impact of the art itself, as Hoppen described. But on the other hand, Lik's narrative that the elitist art world has shut him out directly due to his mass appeal may also have some merit. Phantom certainly is a beautiful photograph, that cannot be denied - but is it really $6.5 million USD worth of beautiful? Lik and at least one other person certainly seem to think so, but is it really worth that much? That, dear reader, is up to you. 

Posted on February 25th 2015 on 05:11pm

Friday 20th February 2015Artist Spotlight: Salvador Dali

Typically, in the Artist Spotlight series, we take the time to highlight a contemporary artists who, for one reason or another, is making headlines. Sometimes, however, the pull of an artist is so great, the work and character so appealing, that it is impossible to avoid writing about them. Salvador Dali is just one such man, although calling him a mere mortal seems like an insult to his memory.

One of the world's most famous Surrealists, and one of the founders of the entire Surrealist movement, Dali was a figure literally like no other. Sporting a famously bizarre moustache, it sometimes seems like his entire character could be extrapolated from that one personal detail. Precise, talented, flexible, and completely out to lunch, Dali was nevertheless incredibly creative and gifted, always hoping to push the envelope of what could be accomplished at the time.

Perhaps most famous for his melting clocks (the actual piece is entitled 'The Persistence of Memory,' and hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, just so you know), Dali was one of the great technical experimenters outside of the world of painting. We think of 3D movies and stereoscopic glasses as something that has just begun to gain popularity, but Dali and Walt Disney were experimenting with the technique nearly 50 years ago. Not much actually was produced by their collaboration in terms of functional technology, but nevertheless the foundations were laid for the future of stereoscopic imaging.

Few areas of the world were closed to him, in fact, and he experimented with a large number of media, and pushed the boundaries of what was regarded as art at the time. Perhaps most interestingly, though, was that he was one of the first to realize that being his own character, being larger than life, could advance the rest of his career - probably most notable was him showing up to a fancy dress ball in New York with Gala, the love of his life, dressed up as the Lindbergh Baby and kidnapper. He eventually decided to apologize given the uproar, but it's the perfect example of how he pushed envelopes in everything he did.

In the words of Sigmund Freud, the famous psychoanalyst, "I have been inclined to regard the Surrealists as complete fools, but that young Spaniard with his candid, fanatical eyes and his undeniable technical mastery, has changed my estimate." So too has he done for us all.

Posted on February 20th 2015 on 02:37pm

Wednesday 18th February 2015Picasso Again - But Now Theft?

Picasso and his works seem to be all over the art world news, lately. Marina Picasso, the late artist's granddaughter, made waves several weeks ago when she announced that she plans to sell off portions of her collection of works by the famous Cubist master, bypassing the auction world and selling them privately. A Picasso piece was also stolen from the Miami Beach version of the Art Basel art fair around the new year, although that small theft pales in comparison to the one that has been alleged now.

The case in question involves a handyman who worked on the Picasso estates in the 1970s, who is alleged to have stolen a huge number of works worth an estimated £50 million on the auction block. The handyman, Pierre Le Guennec, claims that the pieces were given to him by Picasso's second wife in 1970, with the nothing more than the words, "Here, it's for you. Take it home." The Picasso estate, and his surviving son Claude, contend that this is completely ridiculous given the value of the pieces in question. Claude Picasso told the French newspaper Liberation, "That doesn't stand up. These works were part of his life."

The pieces in question amount to some 180 lithographs, collages and paintings, as well as 91 drawings all by Pablo Picasso. They have remained virtually untouched, sitting in the handyman's garage since the day he brought them home.

Originally, there were no formal charges laid against Le Guennec, while an investigation began to determine how he came to be in possession of them. After eight months of searching, formal charges were finally laid by the police. The pieces were seized, and the couple could face up to five years in prison and a 375,000 euro fine.

Probably the most important pieces that were seized was a watercolour that was painted during the artist's famous Blue Period, as well as 9 Cubist paintings that make up a massive portion of the value of the art hoard. These pieces alone are estimated at a value of £24,500,000, making them as valuable as all the rest of the pieces put together.

It remains to be seen whether or not the couple will be found guilty, as the case is still winding its way through the various legal niceties, but regardless, it is good to see these masterworks back in the light of day where they can be appreciated by everyone.

Posted on February 18th 2015 on 02:34pm
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