Friday, December 30, 2011

Manage Workflow

Remarkable new work from New York artist Specter. This is part of his "Manage Workflow" series that celebrates New York's marginalized workforce. These highly detailed hand-painted portraits started appearing around NYC in 2009. More here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wain Cats

Weird and compelling short article in Scientific American about artist and psychiatric patient Louis Wain, who lived and painted in England between 1860 and 1939.

Wain was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1924. Though the diagnosis is still debated, what's fascinating is that Wain retained his interest in cats as his subject of choice, and his skill as a draftsman remained obvious. As his condition worsened his pictures of cats became more abstract until, towards the end of his life, they were barely recognisable as cats at all, instead becoming intricately detailed, fractal shapes full of bright colours. The foreknowledge that they are images of kitties allows the viewer to pick up on certain shapes – the pointy ears and some features – but without it, you would be hard-pressed to realise these are cats.

The story ends somewhat happily with Wain in a London hospital surrounded by a colony of cats. Check out his early cute and relatively realistic work here and his spectacular and terrifying later work here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The End is Beer

It's widely known that the Mayan calendar marks 2012 as the last year for humanity’s existence. In honor of the end of the world, Seattle's Elysian Brewing Company has teamed up with Fantagraphics Books, and apocalyptic cartoonist Charles Burns to release “Twelve Beers of the Apocalypse” over the course of the year.

First up in January is "Niburu," named for the planet supposedly on a collision course toward Earth. February 21 introduces "Rapture," fallowed by "Fallout" in March. Each beer will be available in a limited edition bottle with labels by Burns at Fantagraphics' bookstore in Georgetown. Once the bottles are gone, these beers will never be brewed again. Of course by the end of 2012 that will be the least of our worries. More on the endeavor here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

To Juan at the Winter Solstice

by Robert Graves

There is one story and one story only
That will prove worth your telling,
Whether are learned bard or gifted child;
To it all lines or lesser gauds belong
That startle with their shining
Such common stories as they stray into.

Is it of trees you tell, their months and virtues,
Or strange beasts that beset you,
Of birds that croak at you the Triple will?
Or of the Zodiac and how slow it turns
Below the Boreal Crown,
Prison of all true kings that ever reigned?

Water to water, ark again to ark,
From woman back to woman:
So each new victim treads unfalteringly
The never altered circuit of his fate,
Bringing twelve peers as witness
Both to his starry rise and starry fall.

Or is it of the Virgin's silver beauty,
All fish below the thighs?
She in her left hand bears a leafy quince;
When, with her right she crooks a finger smiling,
How may the King hold back?
Royally then he barters life for love.

Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched,
Whose coils contain the ocean,
Into whose chops with naked sword he springs,
Then in black water, tangled by the reeds,
Battles three days and nights,
To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore?

Much snow is falling, winds roar hollowly,
The owl hoots from the elder,
Fear in your heart cries to the loving-cup:
Sorrow to sorrow as the sparks fly upward.
The log groans and confesses
There is one story and one story only.

Dwell on her graciousness, dwell on her smiling,
Do not forget what flowers
The great boar trampled down in ivy time.
Her brow was creamy as the crested wave,
Her sea-blue eyes were wild
But nothing promised that is not performed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Punk Rock Flea Market

The 11th Punk Rock Flea Market has come and gone, wrapping up the 5th full year of this underground Seattle institution. Was it fun? Hell yes. Ten hours of booze-fueled shopping with non-stop music from our beloved DJ Port-a-Party. More than 700 people came through the doors - not even including the clowns who sneaked in to avoid paying their $1 entry fee - and we made a donation of about $1000 to our friends and benefactors at the Low Income Housing Institute. If you made it, we were happy to have you there. If you missed it, there's always next time.

Incidentally, our awesome poster for this market was created by Seattle artist Narboo, well known around these parts for his cartoony owls, pigeons, cats & raccoons who appear like magic on stop signs and bathroom walls everywhere between Vancouver, BC and Portland, OR. He still has some limited edition prints left, available right here. The next Punk Rock Flea Market should take place sometime around midsummer. Make a date, mark your calendars and start saving your pennies. And of course, keep an eye on Gurldoggie for details.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Stasia Burrington

The Punk Rock Flea Market happened over the weekend, and it was a hell of a thing. I'll post a full update in a minute, but I first want to highlight one of the vendors who was selling work there. Stasia Burrington is an illustrator here in Seattle, and I just love her work. There's so much to enjoy here - The super cute figures have feelings that run very deep. Her clean clean lines reveal wonderfully complicated ambiguities. And the characters somehow maintain their innocence despite living in a sexy and violent world. Punk rock? Maybe not. Hopelessly romantic? Without question.

Baby Nico really liked this one. For myself, I picked up a pocket-size 2012 calendar with an illustration for each month. Lovely. See more of her work here, and go shopping on her Etsy site right here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chromatic Typewriter

Painter Tyree Callahan out of Bellingham modified a 1937 Underwood Standard typewriter, replacing the letters and keys with color pads and hued labels to create a functional “painting” device called the Chromatic Typewriter. The lovely machine was Callahan's entry to the 2012 West Prize competition, an annual art prize that’s determined by popular vote. If you like it, there's still time to vote, right here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates is a Renaissance man on a mission.

Gates grew up in Chicago and graduated from Iowa State University as an urban planning major. While there he took a course in ceramics that got him hooked on clay and made him think he could be an artist. He studied religion in South Africa, sojourned in Japan, and earned the first of two masters degrees. In the process, Gates went from throwing pots to mounting emotionally charged installations and performances, including multiple events based on a faux biographical story that Gates created. In his tale, a master Japanese potter, Yamaguchi, had fled Hiroshima and landed in Mississippi, where he married a black woman, combined Japanese and black southern cultures, mentored Gates, and then died, leaving Gates to continue his mission of "fostering social transformation."

With former Wilco member LeRoy Bach, Gates formed an experimental music ensemble, the Black Monks of Mississippi, making performance art out of a blend of Eastern chants, gospel, and the blues. By 2010 Gates was a hot ticket on the museum circuit, with a schedule that included on-site projects or residencies at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Houston's Contemporary Arts Museum, and New York's Armory Show and the Whitney Art Museum.

But in the summer of 2009, while his career was thriving, his Chicago neighborhood had emptied out due to assorted consequences of poverty and economic collapse. The house next door to Gates — bigger than his and bustling with three tenant families when he moved in — was abandoned and bank-owned, and had been on the market for a year. Gates bought the forlorn frame house for $16,000, and the extra house became a library and archive housing Gates' 60,000 glass lantern slides from the University of Chicago's art history department, 14,000 books from Prairie Avenue Bookshop, which was closing, and the 8,000 LPs that the Dr. Wax record store still owned when it also shut down.

In 2010, Gates launched a series of artists' residencies, featuring public performances in his house promoted by word of mouth. After a tremendously successful year, Gates formed his own nonprofit, the Rebuild Foundation, which acquires property in blighted neighborhoods in other cities including Saint Louis, Detroit and Omaha, all of which he intends to converted into grassroots cultural use.

In late April, the Rebuild Foundation acquired a much bigger project: the Dante Harper Townhomes, a shuttered 36-unit Section-8 property a couple of blocks from Gates's home. The plan is to redevelop the building into mixed-income housing for people with an interest in the arts.

It's all of a piece, Gates says. "A big part of my art practice has been creatively investigating what happens in neighborhoods. That also includes playing in the real market, not just gesturing at it. We're at a moment where the interventions that artists make are not just in museums and galleries."

A new installation by Gates opens at the Seattle Art Museum on December 8, and runs through July 1. Theaster Gates speaks at Town Hall Seattle on Tuesday December 6 at 6:30 p.m.