American artist Ellsworth Kelly, one of the most influential painters of the past century, has died at age 92 in his Spencertown, New York home. His death was announced today by Matthew Marks of Manhattan’s Matthew Marks Gallery, a longtime home to Kelly’s many iconic works.
After World War II, the artist began honing the distinctive style he’s now praised for—one that was a reaction to New York’s abstract expressionist movement in the ’50s. While artists within this creative circle favored the use of color as a means to wildly display their uninhibited emotions, Kelly relished in pure, strong shapes and brilliant colors. “I feel that I like color in its strongest sense,” Kelly said to NPR in 2013. “I don’t like mixed colors that much, like plum color or deep, deep colors that are hard to define. I liked red, yellow, blue, black and white.”
Kelly, who’s survived by longtime partner Jack Shear, will be remembered for his seven ripe decades of artistic contributions, all of which are currently displayed in global galleries from Houston to Berlin, Paris to Boston. He will be revered as the postwar visionary who laid the foundation for a wave of minimalism and ultimately proved the power of plainness. See a selection of Kelly’s paintings, below:
Contemporary artist Simon Freund has qualms with our culture’s incessant desire to purchase new products we don’t need. The holiday shopping season served as a catalyst for Freund’s ongoing frustration, citing Black Friday as one of the biggest drives for his new six-chair series aptly titled, “Shopping Bags.”
In a recent interview with HUH Magazine, Freund expressed his anger toward the retail industry: “Brands should ask themselves why they are doing what they are doing [...] If the first answer is money, I think there is not much you can do to make a brand more socially or economically aware, but brands have shown that there are other answers.”
Using a number of simple, black frame chairs and sourced shopping bags, the German artist targets discount-loving brands, including Aldi, COS, Supreme, Primark, Acne Studios and Wood Wood. “If you have a good product at a good price there is absolutely no reason to make it any cheaper, unless your products are not as good as you promised,” Freund said.
During Miami Art Basel last week, rock musician Lenny Kravitz unveiled a selection of more than 50 personal black-and-white photographs, presented by The Leica Galleries and Berlin-based art advisor Reiner Opoku. The exhibition, aptly titled, “Flash,” marked Kravitz’s professional debut in the medium, citing his father, a press correspondent, as inspiration for this official foray into photography.
All the images shown were captured with equipment from the Leica M-System, which Kravitz’s father used during the Vietnam war. The first camera the singer ever touched as a child was his father’s Leicaflex. “When I was little, he gave me his Leica after he came back from Vietnam,” Kravitz said. “At first I found the design more interesting, all these traces of his time at the front. Many years later, I started taking pictures.”
As a whole, “Flash” centers on Kravitz’s life as a celebrity—someone who’s endlessly in the public eye and victim to swarms of excited photographers and fans. In the beginning, he said his existence inside a fishbowl was draining, but became a catalyst for creative expression when viewed through the lens of his own camera. “At first I found it frustrating,” Kravitz disclosed. “But then I saw it as an opportunity. It was an interesting dance and it started to become fun.”
The Miami opening was attended by Swizz Beatz and Lionel Richie, who both received personal tours from Kravitz, inevitably attracting the same flurry of attention that’s echoed in Kravitz’s work.See exclusive “Flash” photos by Lenny Kravitz, below:
Amazon is taking to the streets with its latest arts initiative, The Amazon Street Art Project or #ASAP. Though the e-comm giant has been selling art for nearly two years via the Amazon Art platform, this is their first foray into commissioning it. Leading the charge is RJ Rushmore, the highly respected curator and founder of Vandalog. “[Street art] was the first kind of art that I found both contemporary and accessible,” Rushmore said. “Art should make people think, not make them feel stupid.”
Rushmore was given a clear directive from Amazon (seven prints and editioned works made by street artists) and nearly free reign to execute it. “They were happy to let me figure out the best doors to open,” he said. Though the timeline for completion was short, Rushmore knew exactly who in the street art community could execute the project without sacrificing quality. AIKO, Ron English, Logan Hicks, Faith47, Ganzeer, Stikman and Gaia comprise the talented roster of street artists chosen by Rushmore and Amazon for #ASAP.
“Wasted Lives” by Logan Hicks
He approached the curatorial effort in such a way as to showcase the broad scope of the genre. “[It] is difficult to define,” Rushmore said. “Give it a try. Is it just art on the street? No, because public sculpture is not what we mean when we say ‘street art.’ Does street art mean using spray paint and stencils like Banksy? No, because there are so many other ways to put up street art. What makes these seven artists indicative of street art as a whole is how different they are from one another.”
The Amazon Street Art Project launches today and lasts through the 13th or until the work is sold out. Each of the seven works is limited to 50 prints, ranging in price from $200-$550. “Successful street art can be complex and even conceptual, but, to some degree, it also has to be understandable to any random passerby,” Rushmore said, and Amazon has brought that attainability to the Internet.
“I’m very craft conscious,” says the Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto in conversation with Christie’s International Head of Photographs Darius Himes. “Only artists ascend to the highest technique. You have to train your hands first. I still believe in my hands.” Sugimoto, known for his time-centric photographs of dioramas, abandoned American theaters and seascapes speaks pensively. The direct, meticulous and commanding nature of his work matches that of his presence, which attracted an entranced crowd at Manhattan’s Strand Bookstore.
Sugimoto and Himes spent the hour-long conversation dissecting his craft as true artisans would, celebrating the newly released second edition of Sugimoto’s Seascapes. He describes his vision of sky and water as a form of time travel—a way to capture the ancient world and see it from the perspective of its inhabitants. “It’s the only artistic device I can use to travel through time,” says Sugimoto in regards to his 8×10 large format camera. “The more I think about it, I can share the first consciousness of mine and human beings themselves.”
North Atlantic Ocean, Cape Breton Island (1996)
Beginning the series in 1980, Sugimoto cites his childhood memories of the sea as inspiration. “One day through the train I saw clear skies and an extremely sharp horizon,” Sugimoto says, recalling a destination two hours from Tokyo. “It still remains strong.” The artist’s images are somewhat algebraic, yet they remain distinct through details. For example, the horizon line cuts directly through the center of each photograph, though the varying exposure times offer both clarity and confusion by way of focus. Some images are sharp, while others are not.
They are primitive—primordial, even. There is a sense of foreboding in Sugimoto’s seascapes: No white caps, clouds, boats or birds. There is no visible life. They are simple and clean, preempting humankind itself. Sugimoto and Himes end their dialogue on a humorous note, with Sugimoto assuring the audience that his seascapes are not taken from the same vantage point. Thunderous applause ensues.
“Fuck your ego,” says the infamous self-dubbed extraterrestrial artist/musician Mike Alan, “17 naked wild people on and against the walls of 17 Frost Gallery. Live tattoos. Fire. Paint. Music. Making out. People stuck together. Bad Santa. Comedy. Sadness. Sexy. Not sexy. Everything.”
Alan is currently preparing for the latest installment of his decade spanning “Living Installation” series, aptly titled “The Anti-Depression Show” at Williamsburg’s 17 Frost Gallery. Having received critical acclaim from the New Museum and widespread media coverage from Marie Claire Italia, the Huffington Post, and many more, Living Installation is pegged to be truly visceral experience.
The series takes participants through the rabbit hole and into the rambunctious, unyielding world of Mike Alan Alien. “I have the strength to create this wild world—this unreal realm for people to connect verses being disconnected,” Alan said. Unabashed nudity, paint flinging, transcendent self-made music and endless outlets for self expression will make up Alan’s Living Installation. The scope and emotional breadth of it is nearly impossible to put into words.
Having faced his fair share of struggles—nerve damage, the recent loss of his home and the death of his daughter—Alan suggests that “to create is to kill depression,” which is exactly what he has planned for The Anti-Depression Show. “The holidays are rough,” he said. “The city gets still and people get sad. I want to create a space we can all let loose and put aside all of that. It’s needed. The art world is hard to say the least. People feel lost, left out [or] alone. We are art. You are a living installation.”
“Living Installation: The Anti-Depression Show” is limited to 100 ticket holders. The performance begins at 6:00 pm Dec. 19 and lasts 10 total hours. Tickets can be purchased, here.
This weekend, a handful of brave souls went down to Milk Gallery, stuck their arm through a hole for a while and pulled it out decorated with a lifelong decision they had no input on or approval of. Luckily, these trusting folks were in good hands, for on the other side of the tattoo glory hole was none other than Scott Campbell, celebrated tattoo artist to the trendy and famous (and successful visual artist to boot).
The goal was to experience the same sense of artistic freedom with tattooing as he does while working in the studio. “With tattooing, I have go get permission to be exploratory,” Campbell told The New York Times. “So it’s always been this romantic idea: if I could ever tattoo with the same freedom that I draw or paint.”
Comprised of skulls, roses, geometric patterns and his signature lettering, Campbell’s “Whole Glory” tattoos are, across the board, covetable ink. Here are a few of our favorites via Campbell’s Instagram. Each post was accompanied with the simple phrase, “Thank you for your confidence.”