Time flies as always, and whaaddaya know, the holiday season is upon us once again! As in years past, I have made Christmas cards and sent them out to everyone on my mailing list… if you are not on my mailing list, enjoy this digital version!
However you spend your holidays, I hope that you enjoy them in good company, and have an excellent New Year.
Checking up on one of my favourite art blogs, Lines and Colors, I became acquainted with the work of Dina Brodsky. Intrigued, I started reading up on Brodsky and her work.
Born in 1981 in Minsk, Belarus, Brodsky moved to the United States with her family in 1991.
Dina Brodsky did not set out to be a painter. She graduated from high school and started college just before she turned 18, which gave her some time to kill. So she enrolled in a painting class.
“I didn’t know what I was doing with myself ,” Brodsky said in an interview with Fusion. “I thought painting would be an interesting thing to do until I turned 18, dropped out, and hitchhiked around Europe. That was my plan.”
Picking up a paintbrush for the first time was a transcendent experience for her — one that lead to what she calls her “improbable career” as a professional miniaturist.
Inside the impossibly small world of Dina Brodsky’s paintings, Jessica Roy November 23, 2014
So yeah, happy accidents. From her start at the Amsterdam Academy of the Arts, Brodsky went on to earn a BFA from University of Massachussetts (2004) and an MFA from the New York Academy of Art (2006) and has exhibited in at least one show every year since graduating.
There’s something very intriguing about miniature painting, especially within the context of representational realism. There’s the charm of the small, with its spatial intimacy. You can’t stand back and let a miniature painting wash over you. There is no monumental domination of your field of vision, only you, very close to a small work that is rendered in high detail. You have to get right in there with the art, examining the details. It occupies the same space as you do. But this is where it gets interesting: you are the only person. There are traces of people, and implied narrative, like the repeated appearance of the red, sleeveless summer dress. Sometimes there are birds, or small animals. Whether the birds & animals are meant symbolically or as a simple incursion of nature into previously occupied spaces is unexplained.
The physicality of the art is also intriguing, for a few reasons – first, many of them are round, which suggests the round windows that are often cut into the hoardings of a construction site where you can only really glimpse the work on the other side from a very specific angle, especially because they are unframed. By extension, the similarly unframed square paintings also become fixed windows; not the kind with casements and curtains, but a temporary peephole into another place. Of course this impression is also nudged along by Brodsky’s titles, like demolition Spyhole (a recurring series).
The second thing that is intriguing about the paintings in a physical sense is the media used – mostly oils on different plastics like Plexiglas or drafting mylar. Presumably this is so that the grain of canvas doesn’t interfere with the fine detail of the renderings, but paint behaves differently on plastic than it does on even slightly absorbent material.
It’s also interesting in that it is a non-traditional medium, at least for fine art – painting on plastic is more typical of animation cels. Not that there’s anything cartoonish about Brodsky’s work. I see it more as a kind of contemporary contextualization, reminding us that while we are looking at miniature painting, these are not the precious jewels of the Renaissance.
Dina Brodsky is currently exhibiting her work at Sirona Fine Art in a dual show with Wesley Wefford, titled “Miniature & Majestic”.
The show runs until January 11, 2015 so if you happen to be looking for something to do in or near Hallandale, Florida over the next couple of months, Sirona Fine Art is at 600 Silks Run #1240, The Village at Gulfstream Park, Hallandale Beach, Florida.
If you would like to see more of Brodsky’s work, you can check out her personal portfolio website, http://dinabrodsky.com/ or if you are down with the Book of Faces she has a page there,too -https://www.facebook.com/dina.brodsky.7.
All images used in this post are used with permission, courtesy of the artist.
The Wadsworth Atheneum is one of the oldest public art museums in the United States. Okay, they say the oldest but Wikipedia disagrees. I’m not here to fight it out, but rather to praise. The Wadsworth Atheneum has an impressive collection, it was the first in America to acquire pieces by Salvador Dalí, Balthus, & Piet Mondrian, and hosted the first American exhibition of surrealism in 1931. They also happen to have my personal favourite painting, Max Ernst’s masterpiece, “Europe After the Rain II”.
Early in 2015, a new exhibition will be on display in the newly expanded and renovated exhibition hall of the Wadsworth Atheneum, “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008”.
It’s based on a pretty interesting idea, which is using art to look at 150 years of Coney Island’s history from undeveloped beachfront to its present incarnation, and all the stages inbetween.
The modern American mass-culture industry was born at Coney Island, and the constant novelty of the resort made it a seductively liberating subject for artists. What these artists saw from 1861 to 2008 at Coney Island and how they chose to portray it varied widely in style and mood over time, mirroring the aspirations and disappointments of the era and of the country. Taken together, these tableaux of wonder and menace, hope and despair, dreams and nightmares, become metaphors for the collective soul of a nation.
– from the exhibition’s website
Coney Island has a pretty fascinating history. Originally an undeveloped beachfront, it was a popular resort destination around the end of the American Civil War, with 3 elegant hotels by the early 1800s. By 1897 the amusement parks had already begun to spring up. By the time of the famous Dreamland fire in 1911, Steeplechase Park and Luna Park were well-ensconced. Coney Island became wildly popular with working-class New Yorkers looking for a way to beat the summer heat as the movement in the 1880s to have a “half-holiday” on Saturdays (until then, people worked 6 days a week) coincided with the expansion of excursion railroads and the Brooklyn street car line. At the time, there were few places for working class people to socialize, particularly women. Even before the subway line was expanded in 1915, Coney Island’s star was at its peak; when Dreamland, Steeplechase Park, and Luna Park were all open upwards of 100,000 people a day would visit.
Coney was at its peak during the years that the three major amusement parks dominated the scene. It was the major tourist destination in America. Crowds routinely topped 100,000. In contrast, Disney World has never reached this figure.
– the Ultimate History Project: “America’s Playground”, John Parascandola
After WWII, Coney Island became less popular for a variety of reasons, including the invention of home air conditioning. By the 50s it was notorious for gang problems and prostitution. Skip ahead a few years and Hurricane Sandy messed things up, but it’s been repaired, spiffed back up, and still going strong.
“Coney Island” will feature more than 140 objects, comprised of both celebrated icons of American art and rarely-shown works from both public and private collections, including paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, posters, architectural artifacts and carousel animals. Ephemera, sound recordings and film clips will immerse visitors in the popular culture of Coney Island.
– from the exhibition’s press release
One of the great things about me writing about this show 3 months in advance is that it gives you, dear reader, plenty of time to make travel plans. The Wadsworth Atheneum is located at 600 Main Street in Hartford, Connecticut, and the show runs from January 31 to May 31, 2015.
Should travelling to Connecticut be an issue, fear not – the exhibition will also travel to 3 other venues in the US: the San Diego Museum of Art, July 11, 2015 – Oct. 13, 2015; the Brooklyn Museum, Nov. 20, 2015 – March 13, 2016, and the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, May 11, 2016 – Sept. 11, 2016.
For more information about “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008”, visit the Wadsworth Atheneum’s website. All images used in this article are courtesy the Wadsworth Atheneum and the works shown are part of “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008” exhibition.
As my regular readers know, I do some writing for Omen, the Montreal Street artist. Throughout the summer he’s been working on OMENfest, painting all over Montreal and other locations such as Toronto and Rochester.
He’s also been working on a project sponsored by Canon, part of their True Originals campaign.
You can read all about it on his blog but here’s a great video of Omen working in Montreal, doing a big mural down on Mont-Royal. Like I wrote on omen514.com,If you’ve never seen a mural artist at work using cans like a ninja, here’s your big chance! Just click on the preview image below and you will be whisked away to a magical land of slap bass and spraypaint.
Anyhow, for more news of Omen’s upcoming projects, go check out omen514.com. He’s a busy guy!
When I first moved back to Montreal in 2002, I was living in Little Burgundy by the Turcotte Expressway, and started seeing these really unusual drawings on the walls in the area, all painterly faces and stuff… I was used to seeing marker and spray paint, but some guy was actually drawing using oilstick – and not the standard hip-hop imagery and wild style lettering, but actually drawing stuff, with an uncharacteristically rough-hewn tag, “PRODUKT” or in this case, a tag that was actually a legit signature.
I kept my eyes open and kept seeing work by this Produkt character in side streets, alleys, and industrial spaces all over town, from the Plateau to Saint-Henri, often working within KOPS crew.
One day I saw an online article talking about some guy doing live painting on Saint-Laurent (2008, maybe?) and I recognized the artist as Produkt – I wrote to the author of article who had the sense to have an email address attached to his article and thusly ended up meeting Alex for the first time.
He has been one of my absolute favourite Montreal street artists since I first saw his work, and I have made a point of keeping my eyes open for new oilstick drawing, wheat pastes, or anything else of his I could find. Imagine my excitement when he mentioned on the Book of Faces that he was launching a show! No, really, I was super excited. The show, “End Orphans” opened last Friday in the old Bedo space on Saint-Laurent right next to Bifteck.
Here’s the artist’s statement for the show, conveniently arranged on the wall right by the door:
“For over a decade he has wandered the streets and train tracks of Montreal covering walls and other surfaces with portraits and drawings that blend finely-detailed realism with cartoon fantasy. Whether they realize it or not, many Montrealers have seen his work and some might recognize his recurring characters, such as an austere eagle or a man on all fours dressed as a dog”
Well, it’s been well over decade since I’ve seen his work on the walls of the city, but whatever. He did get busted at one point under the stupid graffiti laws so maybe he’s trying to keep his history on the down low, but all the old stuff is mostly gone so whatever.
Now, I’ll be honest with you – most of the time artist’s statements are a load of horseshit, but this one really does sum up Alex’s work pretty well. His work consists of a cycle of re-occurring thematic elements. Sometimes he adds some in, sometimes he drops some out. It doesn’t talk about his motivations or the meaning of his work, but it makes sense within his body of work. I think that because I first got used to seeing his work on the streets instead of a gallery, I didn’t expect any explanation, I was just pleasantly surprised to see reoccurring elements and accepted it at that. The pieces do have titles at the show, but you’ll have to go there to find that out for yourself. Context, right?
Here are a few samples from the show:
The thing I like best about Alex’s work is that he switches between media and focus very fluently. His work is always figurative, representational drawing & painting, but sometimes it is very much in the tradition of representational realism, and sometimes it is very cartoony. Sometimes he draws scratchy, blunt ciphers, and sometimes he renders line and shadow carefully. Sometimes he paints like he is drawing, and sometimes he draws like he is painting. Sometimes he will slash across a canvas with a loose calligraphic mark, sometimes he will spray a random fog of paint across the surface, and sometimes he will draw a tiny green heart in pen on top of a carefully rendered oilstick form. It’s really quite exquisite, but never precious. If Alex wants his work to look like pen, he uses a pen. If he wants it to look like he’s painting with a brush, that’s what he does. He doesn’t play trompe l’oeil tricks or give in to pure abstraction, but he is still a real painter’s painter and then some.
Alex Produkt is not just an artist that artists will enjoy, by any means. The recurrent themes throughout his work remind me of the way that Mozart or Beethoven would construct a symphony. You see a thematic element, you see it evolve, you see new elements added in, you see them interact, and you see them resolve. It’s not just elements, though, you also see him interpret those elements in different media, like how in a symphony a theme will carry through the woodwinds, the brass, and the strings, showing a different side to the idea each time. In many way I look at Alex’s work as very musical, but through art media.
Anyhow, the show is fantastic and you really ought to go see it of you are in Montreal. I’ll be dead honest, I’m not sure when it’s on until, so you really need to get up off your couch and go check out the first major art show by one of the few Montreal street artists that has figured out how to combine the fine art tradition with street art/graffiti and be totally legit in both contexts.
The show is at 3706 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, just south of Pine on the west side, right next to Biftek.
If you want to keep up to date with is latest endeavours, Alex Produkt has a Facebook page.
Alex was also involved with this year’s Mural Arts festival in Montreal. Here he is, hard at work making awesome things.