Art is one of the oldest disciplines in human history. Styles may have changed since cave paintings but the love of creation has never diminished. These articles cover everything from Chinese art to Western neo-expressionism.
Things are pretty shit right now because of that horrible C-word and it can be difficult to relax. There are ways to destress and one of them is through art therapy.
Priya Chandé felt the benefits of art therapy to manage the stress of her career and that turned into Unwind LDN. Launched in 2019, the business provides workshops to help people unwind and unplug through “artistic expression”. Some people like to talk through things, others like to thrash it out in the gym, and others take to art and creativity to improve their mental health. And that’s what Unwind LDN is here to facilitate.
Benefits of unwinding with art
Art is cool but it’s more than just paintings in art galleries. Unwind LDN harnesses some positive health benefits from the workshops they provide such as:
I don’t know if I could do it but Artsy Editorial had a go and their list is pretty powerful. But rather than just pick 20 amongst themselves, they consulted people in the industry:
While it’s impossible to capture the full impact that African American artists have on contemporary art, Artsy Editorial asked prominent art historians and curators to reflect on 20 living African American artists who are making a mark on painting, photography, performance, and sculpture.
So, here’s their final list:
Artsy’s 20 Most Influential Living African American Artists
One of the names that should stand out is Kehinde Wiley, the Nigerian-American portrait artist who painted President Barack Obama for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
But if you’re unfamiliar with the others, now’s the time to get acquainted. Below is a gallery of work from each of the 20 artists. There will also be future posts related to these artists so stay tuned.
I love any kind of graffiti or street art so these kinds of illusory murals are right up my alley (pun intended).
Odeith is a Portuguese street artist and regarded as a pioneer of anamorphic graffiti, an art technique that uses projection and vantage points to give the illusion of a larger 3D imagery.
He was born in 1976 and started his love affair with street art in the 80s, doodling on the walls of Damaia. But the 90s saw his first forays into graffiti as he spread his work across Damaia and the wider areas of Amadora in Portugal.
With his work, Odeith creates incredible works of art depicting giant spiders, frogs, and even cockerels. But how does he do it? Freehand. Well, mostly. The Lisboeta says before he works on a big piece, he uses a computer to preview his designs.
Modern art rabbit holes are the best kind to fall down.
Sure, there’s a lot of pretentiousness in the field and dominated by white men both at the canvas and observing it for the media. But there’s a unique artist for everyone. Someone that catches you off guard with their interpretation of the world, telling a story that means something to you.
And for me, Keith Haring is one of those artists. Born on 4th May 1958, Haring’s work became synonymous with New York City and its bustling subways, depicting striking images of human figures, dogs, and all kinds of manifested emotions.
As his popularity grew, so did the themes behind them. He created large scale murals as forms of activism for AIDS awareness and sexuality. His work never demeaned or alienated those who observed. They were fun and full of energy and, most of all, memorable. You know when seen a Keith Haring piece.
So with that, I’ve made a YouTube playlist of 8 Keith Haring documentaries to watch at your leisure. Enjoy!
Update: 2 of the videos were made private so only 6 are available to view.
1. Drawing the line: a portrait of Keith Haring
This documentary was produced by Elisabeth Aubert in conjunction with Biografilm.
Keith Haring’s artistry moved went from New York subway graffiti to the art galleries and walls of the rich and famous. He was often likened to Andy Warhol (much like his best friend Jean-Michel Basquiat) but I feel that diminished his individuality and personal merit.
He broke boundaries with his work as a form of activism during the AIDS epidemic, which he sadly died from in 1990.
2. The Universe of Keith Haring
The strapline for this documentary is simply “a portrait of New York artist Keith Haring” but this picture paints a lot more than 1,000 words.
Christina Clausen directed the film and gave glimpses into his life, from his humble beginnings in Pennsylvania to pop culture icon. The film also stars Yoko Ono, Fab 5 Freddy, and David LaChapelle.
3. Keith Haring – The Message
French fashion designer Maripol presented his documentary (English dub and French subs). Split into episodes, The Message looked at the different ways Haring’s work immersed itself into pop culture during the 80s.
4. Discover the King of Street Art: Keith Haring
Discover the King of Street Art will appeal to fans of mini-documentaries. This one is a 4-minute journey through his life and features some of his most famous pieces, from subway walls to the Berlin Wall (and Grace Jones).
5. Keith Haring Uncovered
The other documentaries in the list gave overviews of Haring’s life but Keith Haring Uncovered looks at his visit to Australia in 1984 when he created a mural in Collingwood, Melbourne. What makes this mural special is its rarity – there are only 31 known Haring murals “in the wild” so to speak.
6. From the archives: Keith Haring was here
This is an archived news story rather than a doc but it’s still pretty cool. Charles Osgood investigated on Haring’s chalk drawings in New York subways that often got him in trouble with the law. Spoilsports.
7. Mr. Guera Reads …Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing
If the children are our future, they ought to know about Haring too. And this video does exactly that. Mr Guera is an illustrator who makes educational trading cards called Buzu Trading Cards® and in this, he did a reading of Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing by Kay A Haring, Keith’s younger sister.
8. Intro to Keith Haring
The final video splices together footage from other documentaries as an educational aid, including the semiotic nature of his work. Perfect for students of any age.
I’ve always been sceptical of Virgil Abloh. I “get” his work but it’s not for me and it’s not a coincidence that his artistic ascension coincided with Kanye’s, arguably his biggest collaborator.
So when I read Rashayla Marie Brown’s review of Abloh’s “Figures of Speech” exhibition, I felt vindicated. And Brown was more eloquent than I would have been.
She started by questioning the lack of critiques of his work to begin with (I’m aware this is a critique of a critique that questions the lack of critiques but stay with me down this rabbit hole).
Besides the press in the New York Times about Abloh’s meteoric fashion career and a cursory review of the exhibit in Architect’s Newspaper, we have not had any meaningful criticism that contextualizes Abloh’s contributions, how exactly his collaborations developed, and what the actual impact of his design is on issues of racial representation in the art and design fields.
The rest of the review analyses the exhibition and how the forms of black art are nothing more than tropes.
Where Instagram celebrity status has produced a new cultural producer hell-bent on monetizing time and false relationships, Abloh’s in-person engagements are more important than the artwork itself, a conundrum touched upon by the numerous events and sites that occasion the show.
While looking through the photos taken of the exhibit, I felt the same sentiment as Jay Post, a member of Young Chicago Authors when he said: “man, he claimed to be representing us, but instead he just gave us a big ass billboard.” The work fell flat in regard to black presentation. It’s just another ironic work of Abloh art. I’m surprised he didn’t reduce the exhibition to a banner with “BLACK” written on it in Helvetica.
But the final paragraph really cuts deep, like a hot knife through butter.
Abloh’s work complains about White supremacy in fashion and then sell products designed to uphold the financial and material oppression of one group over another through collaborating with companies such as Nike and Louis Vuitton. This is the fashion equivalent of saying you don’t eat Harold’s, while we can see the grease dripping down your chin.
One of my favourite artists is Keith Haring. His ability to create art anywhere made his work accessible to anyone. It courted controversy within the art world when he was alive and that only enhanced his appeal to me.
Oskunk offers a similar approach to his art. Based in Paris, the French artist combines video games, Japanese manga, graffiti, and comics to create incredible typographical pieces.
He started out in 2007 after viewing a custom art exhibition and started out by customizing a NES. He uploaded the result online and requests came flooding in. Now, Oskunk prefers paintings using a “tag cloud” aesthetic with comic book style typographic mixed with art from his pool of pop culture inspiration. And he’s mean with a Posca pen too.
But talk is cheap in art. Let’s take a look at a few of Oskunk’s best works.
Customised Wario Gameboy
I’m a sucker for customised Gameboys (I’ve even made some myself). This was the first Oskunk custom design I saw and it’s glorious. He brightened up a beaten-up yellow Gameboy DMG with a cool Wario Posca pen design.
Undead Magneto Pop Figure
Oskunk transformed a plain pop figure into a bright but frightening undead zombie Magneto with the help of his black Posca marker and some brilliant paints. It certainly looks better than the newer X-Men movies.
Calavera Iron Man
This stunning render strips Iron Man down to a monochrome palette with a Mexican calavera design. Can you imagine Antonio Rígido (Tony Stark translated to Spanish) as a luchador?
Lindt Bunny Skeleton
Following on from the macabre theme is this quick custom job on a Lindt bunny. Ever wondered what a Lindt bunny skeleton would look like? Well, now you can. (No bunnies were harmed in the making of this piece and the chocolate bunny does not contain any bones.)
This spectacular work uses just six Posca markers on black paper. Thanos’s rendered face is amazing in its use of negative space but the star of the show is the typographical gauntlet, made up of the Marvel heroes’ names.
Create your own art with these tools
Want to try your hand at making great art? These are some of the resources you might need (please note, these are Amazon affiliate links. For more information, please read our Disclaimer page):
But the important number today isn’t 17 or 800,000 – it’s 5. Because I’ve chosen 5 examples of modern artists who’ve inspired skateboarding culture. Or how skateboarding culture has influenced 5 modern artists. I don’t think the order really matters so let’s check them out.
One word: Obey. It’s primarily a verb but it’s synonymous with Shepard Fairey, the street artist who turned it into a clothing brand, based on his iconic André the Giant Has a Posse artwork. Fairey played a pivotal role in bringing skateboarding culture into the popular scene through art and clothing thanks to OBEY. His 2009 work Alva Frontside portrays skateboarder Tony Alva.
Robert Rauschenberg was an artist who pioneered the “Combine painting” style involving the mix of painted canvases and objects. He was also seen as a forefather of pop art alongside Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. Much like Basquiat, he never worked directly with skate decks but they were posthumously printed onto a series of decks including his works Doubleluck, Watermelon Medley, and Sri Lanka VI.
If you don’t already know Takashi Murakami for his solo art efforts, you might know him for his collaboration with Kanye West on his Graduation album artwork. The Japanese artist is more postmodern than modern but his style looks incredible on skate decks. They’re unique, vibrant, and exhilarating – just what you need for board used on death-defying air tricks, right?
The final artist in this list is Jim Houser. Born in Philadelphia in 1973, Houserʼs is well known in his city as well as galleries in Italy, France, Brazil, and Australia. Enjoi teamed up with Jim Houser to create a series of decks, showing a more whimsical side of skateboard culture compared to other artists. He also created a piece called The Line Up involving a collage of skateboards painted on a panel to complete the skate culture cycle.
Of course, there are way more than 5 artists involved with skateboarding culture in some way: Mark Gonzales, Skip Engblom, Banksy, and Keith Haring to name a few. Many had art printed on boards after death but the opposite was also true, as in their art depicted board life, whether it was on wheels or on the waves.
Postwar modern art, as it transformed into postmodern art, was the perfect aesthetic for youth culture to express itself. Skateboarding was just one such pastime that did the same. Graffiti played a part too. So it was only a matter of time before they all came together in some form and evolved through one another.
The impact of skateboarding on the arts and culture and vice versa is how countercultures thrive. Skate culture is for everyone, not just the men. It’s all about how far you can go before you land something big that’ll change the world.
Chinese culture site Goldthread made a video about Wong Ping, an animator from Hong Kong. He’s a 34.4-year-old and started out in broadcasting before founding Wong Ping Animation Lab in 2014.
According to Wong, he stumbled into animation “by chance” while retouching images in his old job. He began creating stories and animations in spurts of boredom and during his free time. He says works within the limitations of his skill and attributes his “lack of ambition” as the reason for short films.
But even if the images are ugly, I want to make sure it’s a beautiful kind of ugly.
But that hasn’t stopped his work from featuring in places such as the Guggenheim Museum, the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art in Manchester, and the Arts Centre Melbourne. His work depicts the nature and behaviour of humanity in their “repressed obsessions and unfulfilled desires”. Wong’s animations are surreal in style and in the openness of the subject matter – it’s shock and flaw.
Wong says people think his cartoons are ugly because of their perception of animation. But hey, people think brutalism is ugly. He likens himself and his artistic expressionism to that of a comedian. His works are sketches in the comedic sense and finally asks “in the end, is it all just about being funny?”
At work, I nearly fell down a Wikipedia rabbit hole but stopped myself at Saul Steinberg. The reason I even got there was because I was looking up Slash from Guns N’ Roses and discovered he was named after the artist (Slash’s real name is Saul Hudson and he was born in Hampstead, London if you didn’t already know).
Saul Steinberg was born in Romania in 1914. He studied architecture in Milan and started cartooning for humorist newspaper, Bertoldo, in 1936. Anti-semitic laws in Italy forced him to leave and he fled to the Dominican Republic in 1941. He stayed there for a year waiting for a US visa but his cartoons were already well known by the time he entered the country. Many of his drawings had featured in The New Yorker.
After World War II, his work cropped up in more popular publications such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. His name was included in the “Fourteen Americans” show at MoMA and he embarked on an illustrious career. In 1967, he was the subject of a documentary called Saul Steinberg Talks.
Here’s a quote from early in the documentary
I think it is very important for people to run away…from home, from the mainstream, from their family, from the culture, from the society that produced them…because the moment I have to learn something new, like new habits, new languages, I myself have something like a rebirth. I reduce myself to the lowest denominator and this is very healthy for an artist. To start all over again.
Steinberg was a deep thinker and one of the greatest artist of the 20th century. His legacy now lives on through The Saul Steinberg Foundation, in accordance with his will.
Alex (full name Alexis Gabriel Aïnouz) is a French “Self-taught Homecook / Self-taught Filmmaker” and he managed to find a way to make a foodsafe kintsugi hack. The video starts in September 2017 in Alex’s studio with a small bowl which he drops and, naturally, it broke. He then discusses how much he loved it and goes through his kitchen, showing all the other broken utensils he had patched up.
So, rather than send his favourite blue and white bowl to ceramic heaven, he took it to Mizuyo Yamashita, a London-based ceramic artist who specialised in kintsugi. But it’s not only Japanese artforms she uses:
I work now mostly on the potter’s wheel and apply surface decorating techniques that stem from Japanese and Korean traditions such as shinogi, mishima and kohiki or carve the clay surface using Japanese chisels for wood-printing.
I love kintsugi, visually and philosophically. It’s a beautiful technique that teaches so much about life and the objects in our lives. Minimalism is portrayed as an antithesis of our post-postmodern maximalist world. But a lot of it does the opposite with nothing more than licks of white paint and expensive items – even if there aren’t many of them.
Kintsugi offers a chance to repair something beloved; that holds a value in our lives – and gives it a new golden life. Sure, Alex’s “hack” cuts the time down and might remove that time of contemplation but you still have a beautiful bowl that brings you joy. Marie Kondo would approve.
Basquiat’s “Flats Fix” from 1981 was the re-imagining of Autobody shops signs in Brooklyn. Of that, his father said:
“It is one of the things he remembered well and extracted multiple meanings from. He always used simple symbolism to explain complex situations.” In this case, it was the culture of his native Brooklyn and his identity as a black man within it.
So much of Basquiat’s work focussed on black identity. The way he burst onto the high brow scene literally from the streets was remarkable in its own way. Many black artists have tried to follow suit but never retained the same level of black integrity that Basquiat did, until his untimely death in 1988.
My favourite piece of advice from the editorial has to be “remix your references”. That’s my primary ethos whenever I create. When asked about a method of working, Basquiat said:
“I’m usually in front of the television. I have to have some source material around me to work off.”
He liked to immerse himself in multimedia while he created it. For others, this would have been the ultimate distraction. For Basquiat, it was essential.
Whenever I listen to Broken Wings by Mr Mister, I have this vision of a warm sunny Saturday afternoon in 1994, drenched in vivid colours. Little did I know that aesthetic had already existed a decade before thanks to Hiroshi Nagai.
The Japanese painter grew up in Tokushima Prefecture and started his career in King Terry’s studio and made a name for himself in the early 80s. His depictions of West Coast America during the 50s worked wonders during Japan’s economic boom from the 80s. There was also a new genre to tie it all together: City Pop.
The easiest way to explain City Pop is to imagine soft rock meeting soft pop with sunshine and swimming pools. And sprinkle a bit of the 80s as a garnish. Metaphors aside, the genre was very popular in Japan and Nagai’s poolside paintings were the perfect visual aid.
“Without American pop art I would not have to start painting the way I did. This experience made me paint my summer skies as deep blues from that point on. That said, surrealism was also a big influence, and of course hyper-realism.”
Nowadays, we have genres like vaporwave that take cues from that era but more akin to the 90s and with more digital effects than paint and brushes. Hiroshi Nagai’s artistry is still coveted by many including myself.
Where to get Hiroshi Nagai prints
You can get “unofficial” prints from Amazon, Redbubble, and Society6. There was the MAGIC STICK collab from their Spring/Summer 2018 collection (if you can find an item from it). In that, the Japanese street label tapped up Nagai to design their limited capsule collection, including tees, jackets and vinyl bags.
Amongst the plethora of camp looks at the Met Gala on 9th May was Tracee Ellis Ross with an empty frame. But it was much more than that. Her black Moschino dress was gorgeous (as was she because it’s freaking Tracee Ellis Ross) but the golden picture frame was there as a tribute to Lorraine O’Grady.
Born to Jamaican parents in Boston in 1943, Lorraine O’Grady grew up in the West Indian Episcopal church. It was the first of its denomination in the city and “until her sister, Devonia, died then she stopped believing”. Her journey into art took a few turns via a major in economics, a minor in Spanish literature, working as a translator, a critic and a government intelligence analyst.
In 1983, as her persona Mlle Bourgeoise Noire, she created Art Is…, a parade float entered into the annual African American Day Parade in Harlem. She persuaded the performers and parade watchers to pose with empty frames. The reclamation of blackness as beauty through the medium of fine art was, and is, the idea of “black campness”. Pardon my French but that’s fucking genius.
“Camp taste nourishes itself on the love that has gone into certain objects and personal styles. The absence of this love is the reason why [certain kitsch items] aren’t Camp.”
Susan Sontag – Notes on ‘Camp’ (1964)
The idea that such a beautiful nuanced look was done so effortlessly in the eyes of millions warms my heart. Tracee Ellis Ross addressed the look on Instagram with the caption, “RECLAIMING THE NARRATIVE ~ black camp. Thank you #lorraineogrady for existing and creating ‘Art Is.'” As Gianluca Russo said for Teen Vogue, “the outfit opened the eyes of many to the contributions black men and women have had on camp fashion.”
Which brings me onto Lena Waite’s amazing outfit: a Pyer Moss pinstriped suit with “Black Drag Queens Invented Camp” emblazoned on the back and the pinstripes made out of lyrics from Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out”. Thinking about it is sending my head spinning because of all the connections to black art, campness, queerness, black power… wow. It’s really a lot and I’m grateful to be around in a world where it exists.
Firstly, happy new year to you all. We hope 2019 is even more prosperous than 2018. If you’re a creative or a lover of the arts, today’s events might help with that.
1st January is Public Domain Day. What does that mean? Well, works of art from 1923 become the copyright-free to the public, meaning you can quote as much as you want wherever you want without attribution. The same will be said for works from 1924 next year, 1925 the year after and so on. Naturally, works before 1923 are also public domain unless otherwise set.
This was meant to take place a lot sooner if it wasn’t for an intervention by the US government. In 1998, congress signed a bill, sponsored by Sonny Bono (yes, that Sonny Bono) allowing a 20-year extension of the copyright term. According to Open Culture, “the legislation, aimed at protecting Mickey Mouse, created a ‘bizarre 20-year hiatus between the release of works from 1922 and 1923.'” Now that’s over, certain Mickey Mouse cartoons and appearances are free to remix without fear of Disney. Well, fear of Disney is never totally extinguished.
But what was released in 1923? A lot of stuff. Mostly silent movies, artwork from the Art Deco period, works from the Harlem Renaissance, early jazz compositions. If you love modernism as I do, this will be like uncovering a treasure trove.
Below you will find a list of works from 1923 and general content free from copyrights. Always remember to check works from any years prior to 1923 to make absolutely sure you follow any licence requirements (if there are any). And happy hunting!
That’s the line I’m going with anyway. I won’t pretend I knew about him for years. He was a name I’d heard but not explored further than occasional utterances. Then I went to see his Boom For Real exhibition at the Barbican in London and everything changed. His bodies of work (and that pun was intentional) were the true definition of expressionism. He flew by the seat of his pants when it came to life and art, neither discipline far from each other nor mutually exclusive.
“I cross out words so you will see them more; the fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them.”
He proclaimed himself a legend and nobody can take that status away from him.