April 29, 2014

Art inspired by good ‘ole U.S.A…

Robert Longo, Untitled (Capitol), 2012-2013, charcoal on paper, 120 x 450 inches

Robert Longo, Untitled (Capitol), 2012-2013, charcoal on paper, 120 x 450 inches


I love America. We have a unique and proud history, but not without its dark days. Robert Longo captures some of our crowning achievements and somber moments in his exhibitions at both Petzel and Metro Pictures galleries. He is an insanely skilled artist who, for the past 30 years, has presented charcoal drawings with photographic precision. Longo’s colossal Untitled (Capitol), 2012-2013, is a testament to the might of our monuments. It is also a symbol of our often polarized nation, being the site of both inaugurations and protest. Another work in the show, Untitled (Black Jack Boot), pictured here, poignantly captures a day of mourning in America by depicting the riderless horse and empty boot that led President JFK’s funeral procession

Longo’s 17-foot tall American flag, titled The Pequod after Herman Melville’s doomed whaling ship in his classic novel Moby Dick, is an imposing view of our nations most charged symbol. While I initially recognize pride in our flag, the title and positioning of the sculpture turn Longo’s Pequod into a visualization of Melville’s metaphor for our sinking nation… 


Robert Longo, Untitled (The Pequod), 2014

Robert Longo, After Pollock (Autumn Rhythm, 1951), 2014, Charcoal on paper

Longo’s works at Metro Pictures, on the other hand, reflect happier times in our history. Here, he takes the post-war decade of incredible artistic production; an era that paralleled America’s rise to world dominance. These are black & white replicas, made to scale, of iconic Abstract Expressionist paintings with trompe-l’oeil precision. Pictured above is Longo’s homage to Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm, 1951. Every swirl and splatter of paint is reproduced laboriously in charcoal. Simply amazing. 

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In case you missed it, Lisa Alonzo ‘s show at Claire Oliver gallery tapped into a sinister side of contemporary America. For better or worse, America today is associated guns and high-fructose corn syrup. Both are fraught with death, destruction, and highly-paid lobbyists. And neither seem to be disappearing anytime soon. Alonzo casually displays donuts and Big Mac’s next to hand grenades and AK47s as a critique on the commonality of these items in our everyday lives. Further, she makes her paintings the same way a baker would make a birthday cake. She pipes acrylic paint from pastry bags with decorative tips, giving the works a sickly sweet coating of irony. Check out the details of her work here


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Martin Wickström displays Americana at Mike Weiss Gallery by way of Nixon and cowboy hats. What I actually love most about these is the artist is not American. He’s Swedish. So his approach to American politics & culture stems from an outside perspective of disjoined media images of war, vintage propaganda, and pop culture. Wickström’s style is reminiscent of mid-century American Pop master James Rosenquist


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Walking home, I caught the newest artwork on the High Line mid-installation – Honey I Twisted Through More Damn Traffic Today, 1977 / 2014, by California-based artist Ed Ruscha. No one epitomizes LA-cool quite like Ed Ruscha, with his deadpan, signage-style paintings. I figured this is close as I might ever get to his studio so I sat and watched for a while. Learn more here

Also on the High Line, Brazilian graffiti artist, Eduardo Kobra reinvigorates Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic black and white photograph, V-J Day, 1945, by blasting it with prismatic color.



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