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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 11th March 2016Anish Kapoor and the Lure of Vantablack

Anish Kapoor, the well-known British artist who has designed a number of public artworks and architectural projects including the popular Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago, has a brand new feather in his cap - although it's almost impossible to actually see.

Thanks to recent advances in nanotechnology, a firm based in the United Kingdom named Surrey NanoSystems has developed a material so dark that it absorbs 99.96% of all the light that hits it, known as Vantablack. As most artists know, objects take on colour by reflecting all the other wavelengths of light. A mirror reflects almost all the light that hits it, making it a near-perfect representation of the

“It's blacker than anything you can imagine. It's so black you almost can't see it. It has a kind of unreal quality. I've been working in this area for the last 30 years or so with all kinds of materials but conventional materials, and here's one that does something completely different," he explained. “I've always been drawn to rather exotic materials."

The deal naturally has some artists rather frustrated by the exclusive licensing deal between Surrey Nanosystems and Kapoor, suggesting that the quest for the darkest blacks has always been the province of dedicated artists throughout the course of history.

It's not the first time that artists have been granted exclusive access to use a particular colour, although there seems to be little available data how regularly someone would challenge such a patent agreement. Perhaps this is simply due to shoddy recordkeeping, or perhaps its due to the fact that it's hard to maintain your artistic credibility by using something so intimately associated with a single person. As far back as 1960, French artist Yves Klein created and patented a shade of blue known as International Klein Blue which he used to create a series of paintings, but to most people today it would be recognized as the same blue that adorns the faces of the art-theatre troupe The Blue Man Group.

Kapoor won't be the only person who has access to the nanomaterial, as several manufacturers have expressed intense interest in using the material, but the deal he has signed gives him exclusive license to develop the material into a spray-type "paint" and then use it in his projects, which means he is effectively the only artist in the world who will have access to it.

For now. With the technology needed to conduct nanotechnological research, it's probably only a matter of time before a competing firm comes up with a similar material, although it's still quite a coup for Kapoor. 

Posted on March 11th 2016 on 04:47am
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Wednesday 09th March 2016Brick by Brick

Lego is one of the most enjoyable kid's toys of all time, but it's also an excellent tool for the modular visualization and construction. It's a great equalizer in its simplicity. To that end, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is running an interesting experiment: they provided ten of the world's leading architecture firms with the same set of plain white Lego bricks and asked them to "imagine the buildings to deal with challenges that face our future cities." The project is part of their Brick by Brick exhibit, designed to showcase architectural engineering and design to visitors of all ages.

Each firm received three Lego Architecture Kits comprising 1200 white pieces, and assembled them into a variety of applied design solutions. It creates an interesting crossroads where art, design and engineering meet. Some of the firms involved included SOM of Chicago, Adjaye Associates of London, Kengo Kuma and Associates of Tokyo, but perhaps the most interesting (and artistic) entry was created by the UIC School of Architecture.

Rather than sticking with the assigned project, they ditched the white pieces of the architecture kids in favour of chunky coloured Duplo pieces which they assembled together into a giant disorganized pile titled Lego 601.

According to their statement, "solutions to future conditions only can be discovered through unconventional and disobedient methods. The key is to identify and challenge preconceptions to escape contemporary anxieties about the future."

Typically architects aren't so inclined towards such impractical artistic statements, but it highlights the creative nature of the work that is done in disciplines that aren't traditionally considered part of the art world.

The most practical of the designs was that put forwards by Adjaye Associates, who envisioned a modular structure that would help respond to growing population density around the world. "The design easily allows expansion up and out, empowering communities to be resilient in the face of natural disasters and population growth," the firm writes. "It features solar panels for heat and energy, and breezeways for free cooling."

So is it art? Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but it requires no less creativity - some might even argue it requires more. Nevertheless, the era of clearly delineated spheres of influence is well and truly over, and the artistic world would do better to approach the rest of the world in a more holistic, integrated fashion - brick by brick.
 

Posted on March 09th 2016 on 04:43am
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Friday 04th March 2016Artist Spotlight: Alice Smeets & Atis Rezistans

On this week's edition of Artist Spotlight, we're going to look at the collaborative work of award-winning documentary photography Alice Smeets and a Haitian artist collective named Atis Rezistans. The project is actually not overly recent, but may not have received the widespread note that the odd mixture of haunting and downright weird deserved. Entitled 'The Ghetto Tarot', the project was an attempt to turn the images from the world-famous Rider-Waite tarot deck into a series of photographs using nothing more than materials available in the ghettos of Port-au-Prince.

Smeets recalled some of the stranger moments that occurred during the extended photoshoot. "There have been plenty of little, funny moments. One example: when we were shooting the scene of the Death card, I asked the artists if they had real skulls to place them in the picture. Five minutes later, Claudel, one of the artists and my dearest assistant, came along holding a plastic bag filled with skulls in his hands as if it was the most normal thing in the world to carry dead people's heads around.

It constantly surprised me how the artists almost always found immediately what I asked for. For the picture of the High Priestess, we needed horns to place them next to her feet. I hadn’t let them known beforehand that we would be in need of them. As soon as Claudel found out, he ran and came back a moment later with two horns in his hands. They never told me where they found all of the materials, they just happened to lay around somewhere in the Ghetto."

The end result of the project is a tarot deck with the created photos, which is available for sale for 35 euros on Indiegogo, the crowdfunding site that provided the funding for the entire project, totalling almost 50,000 euros.

There is an odd mixture of successes and failures in the images, some of which are incredibly striking and others which seem more like a lazy art school project - although to be fair, the same thing could be said of the original Rider-Waite illustrations with equal applicability.

“The spirit of the Ghetto Tarot project is the inspiration to turn negative into positive while playing. The group of artists ‘Atiz Rezistans’ use trash to create art with their own visions that are a reflection of the beauty they see hidden within the waste. They are claiming the word ‘Ghetto,’ thus freeing themselves of its depreciating undertone and turning it into something beautiful.”

Posted on March 04th 2016 on 04:40am
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Wednesday 02nd March 2016Robot Artists

Another week goes by, and another story trumpeting robotic artwork comes to supposedly dazzle us. Recently we discussed the Instapainting robot that drew based on a collaborative Twitch stream, and techies across the net were fascinated by the interplay. It was fairly interesting, of course, but as a collaborative art project rather than as a dire warning that robots are soon going to be replacing human artists.

This week, we bring to your attention a robot created by Google's Creative Lab that is able to create a pencil line drawing of a photographic portrait taken by a phone camera. It's an interestingly quirky piece of tech, but hardly something that can really be called an artist, despite what the gadget-hungry internet would like you to believe.

The robot is really just a Nexus 6P smartphone attached to a device known as a IOIO (yo yo) that enables it to move a pencil up and down the canvas by contracting and releasing two cables. But all of the interpretive work, in other words all the elements that actually make up a portrait, are handled by the application that converts your photo into an on-screen line drawing. While it might have a chance at replacing a boardwalk caricature artist on sheer novelty alone, it hardly seems likely that it will ever create something that will hang on a gallery wall.

But that's not to say that it's the last word on the potential of robot artists.

As artificial intelligence becomes one of the hottest areas of scientific research thanks to some actual, tangible leaps forwards in the field (think IBM's Watson winning at Jeopardy or Google's Deepmind AlphaGo beating the world's best Go player in 4 out of 5 matches), we may actually begin to see some true attempts to create an artificial artist. Many people around the world are concerned about robots replacing them in their field - McDonalds fast food workers, for example - but is this really going to ever be a concern for the art world?

Perhaps the better question is what will happen to the creative arts in a world where menial labour is all handled by machine intelligences, leaving us with a glorious excess of free time to work on whatever may catch our fancy.
 

Posted on March 02nd 2016 on 04:37am
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Monday 29th February 2016A Torrent of Images Catches the AP and the WPP

Just last week we posted about the World Press Photo competition, and the hauntingly gritty winning photo by Warren Richardson of refugees sneaking under razorwire to cross borders in the dead of night. All congratulations to him, but there's been a bit of embarrassment in the rest of the contest, as one of the winners in the People category had to be removed by the submitter - the Associated Press, of all groups.

The photos in question won third prize in the People category, a series by Daniel Ochoa de Olza featuring victims of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris during 2015. According to the Associated Press, the photo series was submitted in error, which is a strange sort of excuse considering they stood up long enough to pass through the jury pool and be voted a winner.

Weirdly enough, de Olza had actually also won the second prize in the same category, so it isn't nearly as much of a hardship for him as it might first seem. Managing director Lars Boering of the World Press Photo Foundation, the organization that hosts the WPP event each year, said in a statement:

“The jury had an abundance of quality photography to choose from in each category, and our processes are organized so we can accommodate an unforeseen circumstance—such as the withdrawal of a story by the owner of the entry. We are delighted to give the third-prize award to Magnus Wennman, a very worthy winner. We’re sorry that Daniel Ochoa de Olza’s third-prize award cannot stand given the request to withdraw the entry, but we’re happy that Daniel has also won second prize in the same category for his ‘La Maya Tradition’ story. I’ve spoken with Magnus and Daniel to congratulate both of them and we’re very pleased they can join us in April for the Awards Days.”

It does sort of beg the question of relevancy, however. Perhaps de Olza's photos really are so spectacular, but the fact that the same photographer can win consecutive prizes in the same category makes one wonder if the World Press Photo contest is receiving sufficient attention in terms of submissions, or if there is something influencing the judge's opinions. Either way, it's sort of an embarrassment for everyone involved in the jury and submissions process, and simply a bit disappointing for de Olza. Here's hoping that next year will have a more varied crop of winners!
 

Posted on February 29th 2016 on 05:38pm
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Wednesday 24th February 2016Artist Spotlight: A Fake Instagram Life

We've been discussing Instagram a lot lately, both for the impressive reach of the photographic social media giant and how it has transformed casual photography, but also because of the profound impact that it's had on the art world in general. In today's Artist Spotlight, we're going to look at the work of Argentina-born artist Amalia Ulman, who some are already crowning the creator of the first true masterpiece of Instagram.

It's quite remarkable how quickly Instagram (and, to be fair, other social media) has worked its way into every aspect of people's lives, often to such an extent that subjects typically reserved for close family and friends suddenly get smeared across the internet for the eager public to gobble up. So when Ulman's Instagram feed appeared following her apparent move to Los Angeles, she blended right into the gestalt of modern life.

Covering every aspect of her life, she attracted thousands of followers who kept a close eye on her trials, triumphs and messy recoveries. Unbeknownst to her legions of followers, however, the entire life she had constructed online was a complete and utter fabrication.

Ulman turned the best photos from her constructed life into an exhibit entitled "Excellences and Perfections", which is currently on display in the Whitechapel Gallery in London. It was so successful that it will also be included in a multi-artist exhibit at the Tate Modern, collectively titlted "Performing for the Camera".

Speaking with Interview magazine, Ulman discussed the reactions to her work: “With Excellences and Perfections, people got so mad at me for using fiction. That was the main critique: ‘It wasn’t the truth? How dare you! You lied to people!’ Well, that’s because you should learn that everyone is lying online. I’m not the first one!

“There are so many girls that go to hotels to take a better selfie, or another expensive place. If they’re trying to be a social climber or whatever, that’s what they do. It’s normal. It’s becoming more and more normal to be conscious of those things. It’s funny how people still take it with this value of truth."

WIth that kind of hilarious yet extremely poignant sendup, it's no wonder that Ulman is on Forbes magazine's latest edition of the 30 under 30 list, a yearly look at up and coming entrepreneurs, artists, and disruptors under the age of 30. Expect more great things from her, whether or not Excellences and Perfections goes down in history or not.

Posted on February 24th 2016 on 06:48pm
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Friday 19th February 2016World Press Photo Winners

Another February is upon us, and aside from a dreary lack of sunlight and terrible weather, that also means that another edition of the annual World Press Photo Contest is upon us. In case you haven't heard of it before, the WPPC is an annual juried competition for photographers that has been running since the mid 1950s, highlighting the best photography that the world has to offer. As the name implies, it's largely focused on photojournalism, but when you consider the fact that every photography has its own story, the line between art and journalism begins to blur in a most enjoyable way.

This year's winner of the World Press Photo of the Year is Warren Richardson, for his eerily haunting photograph of refugees crossing under razorwire fence at the Hungary-Serbia border near Roszke, Hungary. The refugees were struggling to cross the border before the more complete and secure border fence construction was completed, making it a frantic struggle for hope and freedom. Regardless of how you feel about the refugee crisis facing Europe, the image is incredibly powerful.

Richardson, who is based in Budapest, Hungary, explains how he managed to capture the winning image, and why it isn't as crisply in focus as one might normally expect from a winner of such a prestigious competition.

"I camped with the refugees for five days on the border. A group of about 200 people arrived, and they moved under the trees along the fence line. They sent women and children, then fathers and elderly men first. I must have been with this crew for about five hours and we played cat and mouse with the police the whole night. I was exhausted by the time I took the picture. It was around three o’clock in the morning and you can’t use a flash while the police are trying to find these people, because I would just give them away. So I had to use the moonlight alone."

The unnamed photo also won first prize in the Spot News category it was originally entered in, earning Richardson a 10,000 euro prize as well as a new top of the line Canon DSLR camera.

The jury who selected the winners was comprised of a number of notable figures from the world of press photography, including Francis Kohn of Agence France-Presse, who chaired the jury, as well as Huang Wen, director of new media development at Xinhua News Agency, Vaughn Wallace, deputy photo editor at Al Jazeera America, as well as several others.

Posted on February 19th 2016 on 02:42pm
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Wednesday 17th February 2016Robot Artists of the World Unite

It seems like robots are everywhere lately, whether it's replacing cashiers at a McDonalds, on the assembly line at the local plant, or being harassed by Boston Dynamics workers. While it's surely only a matter of time before our robot slaves rebel and crush us into so much biomass, surely the jobs provided by the artistic community would be safe - at least for the time being, right? Well, maybe not.

While robotic painting is hardly a new phenomenon, as experiments were conducted with the mashup as far back as the the 1950s, new technology always creates new opportunities and new ground to cover. Chris Chen has a dream, and while that dream is a slightly blurry and more than a bit messy one, it still involves robots painting portraits of the customers patronizing his company Instapainting.

Above and beyond the stated goals of Instapainting, Chen has opened up access to one of the painting robots to the internet (always a risky move) and streamed the whole thing using the Twitch platform. Users could control the motion of the painting robot, which lead to its own unique set of problems.

"The bots came back and tried to paint 'dickbutts' but the point and click interface made it easy for anyone to interfere. That's probably why this looks more like a Jackson Pollock. I was surprised it mostly ran without issues," he said. "It was a $250 machine slapped together with quickly written software, so running it for that long was an endurance test."

So is it all overblown hype? Surely a robot can't really be an artist, without the hopes, drives, dreams, emotions, and all the other je ne sais quoi that helps fuel the human creative spirit …. right? But what about a robot that is indirectly controlled by a mass of humans?

Perhaps the issue lies in the fact that all the headlines about the story are written as clickbait, hoping to ensnare users for their valuable ad space consumption and clickthrough rates, but if you stop and consider it as a collaborative art project, it starts to become a bit more appealing. We shouldn't go so far as to call it a robot artist, but rather an interesting experiment into collaborative experience that creates a necessary interstitial zone between the body of collaborators and the body of the work.

Posted on February 17th 2016 on 02:38pm
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Friday 12th February 2016Artist Spotlight: Ana Prvacki

Appropriation art almost seems to be an unavoidable consequence of living in a digital world that thrives on information exchange. Whether it's Richard Prince (our favourite appropriation whipping boy) stealing people's Instagram photos and selling them for tens of thousands of dollars or the Beastie Boys tracks being sampled and remixed and reused, appropriation can seem to be everywhere.

But it's not entirely a digital phenomenon, and more importantly, it's not even entirely a problematic phenomenon - at least, not when it's done with some tact (we're looking at you, Richard). For example, take the work of Los Angeles-based artist Ana Prvacki, who arguably falls into the category of appropriation art, but in a far more interesting way than simply enlarging someone else's artistic vision.

Her work is largely comprised of explorations of the work of others, but her latest exhibit is focused specifically on sculptures, but in a rather unique way. Instead of appropriating the sculptures themselves, she appropriates the shadows of some of the most famous sculptures in the art world, both contemporary and historic. Michelangelo’s David, Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column, Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel, Louise Bourgeois’s Spider, Giacometti’s Walking Man, and Sarah Lucas’s Bunny gets Snookered all receive the shadow treatment.

Interestingly, Prvacki hopes to pin the price points for each piece to 1% of the latest sale price of the original pieces. Duchamp's bicycle wheel, which recently sold at auction for $1.6 million USD, would price out at $16,000 - and shipping, we can assume, would be free. She seems to have found a bit of a sticking point here with collectors, who, she says, would prefer a price point somewhere around 0.1%, but she has no plans to restructure her pricing.

Her unwillingness to compromise is admirable, as the whole idea hinges on the very nature of appropriate art, as does her justification for staying firm.

“Ideas are extremely valuable, and making thinner things should have more value than making huge things.  If you can get something to be super thin and really poetic, that should be really valuable. We have to stop thinking in a Costco way.”

An admirable sentiment, as the best art isn't made with the expectation of a high price at the gallery, but for the art itself and what it inspires in those who see it.
 

Posted on February 12th 2016 on 02:35pm
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Wednesday 10th February 2016Berenson Lives (?)

The late American art critic Bernard Berenson was widely regarded as one of the most authoritative experts on the Old Masters, that rather pompously-named group of European artists who had their respective heydays before the turn of the 19th century. He passed away in 1959, but not before creating a vast body of work regarding his chosen passion, the correct attribution of artworks. There is some controversy over his accuracy, or at least his motives, in this field, but we'll leave that for another post.

Fast-forward to present day, where a new Berenson has taken up the mantle of art criticism - or at least, taken up its bowler hat. Throughout the halls of the Musée du quai Branly in Paris a behatted robot strolls, examining the artwork, and formulating 'opinions' about them. Brainchild of robotics engineer Philippe Gaussier and anthropologist Denis Vidal, Berenson is a reactive system that uses its understanding of other's emotions as a gauge for forming his own opinions.

It (or should we say he?) watches the reactions of fellow museum visitors and sorts them into positive or negative, and then blends these reactions to decide whether or not it likes a certain piece.

"When he likes something, he goes in this direction and smiles. When he does not like, he goes away and he frowns – that's how it works. Basically, the idea is by doing so, it adapts itself to its environment, on the basis of this artificial taste, and the aim is to develop a robot that's the equivalent of aesthetic exploration of the world and to see if because of that it may adapt itself more easily to the world around and make other things on this basis," Vidal explains.

"So he developed his own knowledge of the world, which no other robot will have. So if you put different [versions] of them, they will have different ways of exploring the world. So what we are doing now is we develop different robots with different tastes, artificial tastes, and we try to see if because of that they may explore the world around them in more interesting ways."

Curiously enough, it seems like naming the robot after the deceased critic is a token of respect, but Berenson the man may very well have derided his robotic doppelganger as a piece of new media trash, as far removed from the business of actual art criticism as it is possible to be.  Unfortunately for the man, the robot is here now, and rather dashing in his bowler hat.
 

Posted on February 10th 2016 on 02:33pm
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Labels: art, criticism, robots
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