Friday, February 4, 2011

Herbie & Dorothy

Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, subjects of the recent documentary Herb and Dorothy, have managed to comprise one of the greatest American art collections with the modest income of a librarian and a United States Postal Service clerk. What may be even more impressive is that until 1992, the married couple stored the nearly 5,000 works of art in their tiny, one-bedroom apartment in New York City. At that time Washington D.C.'s National Gallery absorbed the collection and even more recently, in 2008, Herb and Dorothy began a program which split up more than half of the mass of work among 50 art institutions across the nation.

Their collection boasted primarily conceptual and minimalist works from the mid-twentieth century and includes artists like Sol leWitt, Dan Graham, and Will Barnet. The two gathered the collection slowly stemming from a sincere and earnest appreciation for modern art and budgeted to buy works which could both accommodate their meager finances, but also be reasonable to physically transport. The hobby quickly became an obsession as Herb and Dorothy hungered more and more to add to their collection.

Most endearing to me about Herb and Dorothy Vogel's contribution to the art world is the fact that they built close relationships with the artists (even negotiating an exchange with Christo and Jeanne-Claude that won them a work of art for cat-sitting!), who acknowledge and appreciate not only the couple's true passion for art, but their impressive understanding and intuition about the work itself. It was truly their genuine love of art that drove the collection, not an expectation of using it as an investment.

Below is a trailer of Herb and Dorothy, along with a few images of pieces from their impressive collection and some photos of the couple themselves.

* images appear courtesy of the following (in order):,,, All works of art are from and are titled as follows: "Untitled" (1995) by David Salle, "Noiseless Blackboard Eraser" (1974) by Joseph Beuys, and "Turkey Shopping Bag" (1964) by Roy Lichtenstein

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Iconography of Melancholia: Eva Hesse & Mark Manders @ UCLA Hammer Museum

Spectres 1960, an exhibition featuring works by the late Eva Hesse at UCLA's Hammer Museum, marks the first time a collection of the German Postminimalist sculptress' early, somewhat representational paintings have been presented as a recognized series. Hesse's best-known works, her "anti-form" assemblages pioneering the use of fiberglass, latex, and plastic, are markedly different in form and technique than those within Spectres, but this exhibition makes viewers aware of the evolution her body of work takes throughout her young life (she died at only 34). One thing that doesn't seem to change much as her media moves from 2-dimensional to 3-dimensional and from figurative to non-representational is a sense of sobriety and melancholy.

Hesse had many struggles beginning with her family's emigration from Nazi Germany when she was a young child, to the death of both her parents, to her failed marriage. While her later work reflects her internal struggles in more symbolic ways, we can see a physical manifestation of these emotions in the paintings of Spectres. The colors are somber: rusty red, icy grey, ocher, and black. In addition, the works are painted with a ferocity that deservedly draws comparisons to Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning whose aggressive works almost exclusively depicted women as the subject. Hesse, however, is creating images more self-reflective in this series. They are both haunting self-portraits and representations of person demons and reoccurring nightmares.

On display in conjunction with Eva Hesse's Spectres 1960 exhibition is Parallel Occurrences/Documented Assignments, a collection by the contemporary Dutch artist Mark Manders. While the two exhibitions share a somewhat restricted, melancholic palette and the artists themselves have ties as masters of assemblage, they aim to represent their makers' dreams and imaginations is very separate ways. Manders is clearly enamored of the Dada and Surrealist movements of the 1920s and 1930s. Like the Dadaists, Manders favors a sense of organic and innate organization of forms and imagery. His aesthetic is a product of his unfiltered subconscious with a tendency omit overt signs of his personal emotional state. Instead what he presents are odd, fascinatingly original works that at once appear both meaningless and decidedly referential of art history.

Though some of the objects within the mixed media sculptures of Parallel Occurrences were pre existing, Manders painstakingly created many. For example, the newspapers that frequent his works are made using the dictionary to create his own text within which not a single word is repeated. His use of found objects like chairs, tables, and books is balanced with his smooth, "unfired clay" figurative sculptures like Art Nouveau faces and alienesque dogs. As a result of this mix of forms, it becomes nearly impossible at times to differentiate between what is "real" and what is "fake."

Manders' offers his own commentary on each work via quotes on their title cards. His voice provides a welcome sense of humor as Manders' refuses to over intellectualize his art, instead offering less-than-cerebral, candid accounts of the reality of his processes and materials. Either the artist prefers to keep any personal meanings private and mysterious, or he wishes for his work to not be over analyzed or seem unapproachable. In the world of contemporary art, this is a road less traveled.

*images appear courtesy of and

Monday, August 30, 2010

Art History 101: Leonora Carrington

My older, much cooler sister Jessica has long been singing the praises of British-born, now Mexico-based Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington. Perhaps this is why on a recent trip to the local bookstore a short novel by the 93 year old particularly caught my interest. I knew Carrington created curious and fascinating paintings full of fantasy, but literature was well? I was sold.

The Hearing Trumpet
, originally published in 1974 and written during the 1960s, is a work as imaginative and whimsical as any of her visual art. Carrington's protagonist in the text is Marian Leatherby, who at the age of 92 has been shipped off to a decidedly eccentric home for the elderly by her son and his unsympathetic family. Written in Leatherby's perspective, the equally hilarious and heartbreaking story is as fantastical and entertaining as a children's book, cleverly blurring the line of how she imagines herself to be (still as vibrant as ever) and the reality of her state of being. Did I mention it also has illustrations? The book is both brilliant and relevant.

Much of the artists' work seems strongly influenced by the events of her tragic life. Carrington's lover and fellow Surrealist Max Ernst was forced out of their home in France after being arrested by Nazis and fled to America for safety. Carrigton was so heartbroken at the loss of her love and artistic collaborator that she suffered from anxiety and delusions to the point of being institutionalized. She eventually emmigrated to Mexico where she entered into a marriage of convenience (to secure her residency) never completely healing from the loss of her former life.

Carrington is not only inspiring for being one of so few historically recognized women artists from pre-WWII era, but also because she so successfully translated imagery from deep within her psyche, sharing the things that haunted her and consumed her. I hope you find her work as engrossing and striking as I do. Enjoy the betwitching Ms. Carrington!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Eye Candy: Portrait of a Lady

Women have been inspiring art since the prehistoric times. Just look at the iconic Venus of Willendorf, a fertility symbol carved out of limestone which marks one of history's earliest examples of art. From Manet's Olympia, inspired by his mistress/muse Victorine Meurnet, to Willem de Kooning's action paintings of abstracted women, to Warhol's iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe, ladies have proven themselves to be the quintessential muse for art as well as fashion and music, and the trend won't seem to die. Here are some of the renowned women whose style, talent, beauty, and energy inspires me, and one more you should get to know. :) As always, enjoy!

Charlotte Gainsbourg



Miranda July


Anna Karina



Barbra Streisand


Marlo Thomas


Jenny Lewis


Now meet Jade; admirably stylish and adorable L.A. lady, stylist, and founder of Fauna Vintage.
Her lovely little blog boasts all the fashionable tidbits and tips that I Make Picture could only dream of (if we covered that kind of thing). We'll stick to visual art, and leave the fashion part to the Jade. :) I was lucky enough to photograph her recently as we plotted future collaborations. Look for my guest blog spot soon!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Robert & Patti: Mutual Muses

Having just completed Patti Smith's Just Kids, a memoir specifically highlighting her friendship, romance, and working relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, what was most compelling to learn was not only the talent of these two as artists during a pivotal time in history (New York City in the 1960s and 1970s) but their significant influence on each other's work.

During New York's era of beat poets and punk music, Smith and Mapplethorpe lived and worked in the historic, bohemian art hub, the Chelsea Hotel. According to Smith's memoirs, her poetry, music, performance art, and drawing was heavily influenced by her photographer friend and his his fearlessness and provocativeness. In turn, Mapplethorpe regularly used Smith as his subject du jour. Miss Smith even continued to let her friend and former lover capture her image for her album covers until his 1989 death from AIDS complications. The two were such a force together that they were given a joint gallery show at Robert Miller Gallery (where Smith is still represented) in 1978.

Of course I love the intimacy both artists exhibit in their work (albeit with very different aesthetics) and the striking imagery of Patti Smith as captured by Robert is inspiring enough, but the reason I want to share these images with you all is to show you what the Just Kids most taught me: that these are two great artists whose lives and work were inextricably entagled with one another's, and was all the better because they were. I also threw in a few snapshots of the two together in their heyday, both to provide a visual of the time of the heighth of their relationship...and also because these photos are completely awesome. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...

A good friend of mine is working on a project that has got me thinking. Like many of us, everyday elements of her life (ie: a little thing called parenthood) had temporarily distracted her from more creative pursuits. Thus, she made it a goal to focus on reading more books, seeing more films, and otherwise exposing herself to potentially inspirational material. This lead her to an ongoing list, which has now led to her upcoming project, The Magpie List (website address and other info coming soon!), where she asks friends, peers, and loved ones to contribute a list of their own 10 thing (movies, songs, artists, films, etc) that have significantly moved them. I'm honored to be asked for my list, and I thought I'd take this opportunity to share it with you all as well. If nothing else, I happy to expose anyone who might be unfamiliar with a few of my favorite things. :)

1) "Nocturne in Black and Gold--The Falling Rocket" painting by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, circa 1875

2) Synecdoche, New York film by Charlie Kaufman, 2008

3) everything Miranda July touches, but start with No one belongs here more than you

4) Loose Woman, book of poetry by Sandra Cisneros

5) "Possibly Maybe" by Bjork

6) Arrested Development

7) oh yeah, and My So-Called Life

8) Untitled Film Stills, series of photographs by Cindy Sherman

9) This short from Paris, J'taime by Alexander Payne

10) Among My Swan, Mazzy Star

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Featured Artist: Robin Rhode

My entire life I've been enamored of art. Throughout my four years in college I studied it intently, religiously until I received a piece of paper which, if nothing else, says I've looked at a whole lot of art. Since graduating I've continued to invest time examining the world of art, not only in terms of its history, but its maturation, its evolution, its adaptation to ever present changes in other facets of the world. In a time when contemporary art is so all-encompassing, you'd think I'd be jaded to it all by now but every so often I encounter a new artist who reminds me of the joy and true beauty work can possess in the most literal sense. Robin Rhode is such an artist and upon seeing his current mini-exhibition as part of LACMA's Contemporary Exhibition series, I experienced a renewed excitement about the state of art.

Rhode is a thirtysomething South African-born artist who now lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Like some genius mix of Charlie Chaplin (for his performances), Banksy (for his "street" forum), and Jackson Pollock (for his action-drawing), the artist illustrates (usually by way of chalk, paint, or oil crayons) a prop or environment and then interacts with it accordingly. Often, video and photography becomes involved in the final product. Inspired by stop-action animation, his pieces are charming, whimsical, sad, joyful, and thoughtprovoking--sometimes all at once. A truly impressive trait of Rhodes' work is his mastery of each element from drawing skill to performance.

I hope you enjoy this samping of his work as much as I enjoyed did in encountering it. Stay tuned for the return of I Make Picture's assigned art projects, as I am currently working on one related to Rhode's work! Xo