Gallery/Street, Public/Private, Archival/Ephemeral: Shin Shin’s Seed Pods

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am particularly interested in art that oscillates between studio and street, high and “low,” and public and private. I find Shin Shin’s work brilliant for this reason: she creates works in ephemeral materials for the street and archival materials for the gallery, all the while documenting the works’ changes and existence in high-resolution photography. Her gallery work is inspired by her street art, and vice versa, and her practice is an interesting cyclical process that considers longevity, ownership, and ephemerality.

At the Satellite Show this fall, I showed two Seed Pod works by Shin Shin. These pieces are printed on archival cotton rag in limited editions of ten. They perfectly held their own on the gallery wall and sold quickly.

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However, this is not the only life these images have had. This spring, the artist printed these designs on a thin newsprint and hung them with wheat paste around Soho. They became embedded in the urban decay at the same time their archival counterparts sat comfortably in a white-walled gallery.

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Yesterday, while walking on Thompson Street, I saw the vestiges of one of these pieces. Torn on the sides and bottom, it seems that people have tried, unsuccessfully, to steal the work, to make this inherently public installation a private one. By using newsprint, the artist prevents this, and instead the damaged and weakened work is left to dissolve quietly. It’s still beautiful – the power of decay and change is never lost on a city like New York – and it becomes a conversation about fragility and ephemerality.

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I think an image that can withstand different settings, different purposes, and the ravages of time is the most wonderful kind of art.

9 Delivery Trucks and a Banksy Waterfall: Street Art on Wheels in NYC

During Banksy’s NYC residence last fall, I went in search of his “Mobile Waterfall”: a rainforest-like vista constructed inside a standard white delivery truck that moved around the city. To finally find the piece parked on a small street in Soho was a breath of fresh air:

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Banksy’s “Waterfall” is not the only truck-based art to grace our city. Over the past few months, as we’ve emerged from a terrible winter and into a sticky summer, I’ve increasingly noticed the decorated delivery trucks that speed through NY, serving as little bursts of color and energy in the urban landscape. While these trucks are more about graffiti and less about conceptual art, en masse they form a worthy body of visual culture. Here are 9 of my recent favorites (spotted in Manhattan and Brooklyn over the past few months):

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A Few of my Favorite Things: London and Bath

There is great joy in tourist photos. Joy in visitors traipsing around, documenting their presence by clicking a button, creating images that proclaim “I was there.” These sorts of snapshots provide both record and souvenir and are infinitely special to their creators. They are to be posted on Facebook or into a photo book, storing experiences long after they are over. The sites depicted in these images follow a formula: places of note are ferreted out like items in a scavenger hunt.

I’ve never been very good at taking tourist photos. I (rightly or wrongly) feel that major sites have been documented by photographers far more talented than I, so I don’t see what my snapshots could add to the mix. Instead, I tend to photograph smaller, often overlooked elements of locations, as those are the records that feel special to me. Below are a few of my snaps from a recent trip to London and Bath:

 

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Very old graffiti on the Palladian Bridge in Prior Park, Bath.

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The front window of the Chelsea Cake Shop, near Sloane Square.

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A stately looking feline coming out of an Earl’s Court basement apartment.

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A funerary monument in Old Brompton Cemetery.

 

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An old Banksy stencil in Notting Hill.

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Liquorice Allsorts, as commemorated by a Heathrow airport display.

Seeing Communities, and Making Art, Through Objects of Everyday Life

This week, I gave a lecture at Temple University on Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, and Southern Vernacular Art, so I’ve been thinking about different ways of including everyday objects in artwork. One of the most distinctive elements of Southern Vernacular material is that artists employ the detritus of their communities, reusing garbage and forgotten objects in interesting ways. Instead of drawing or painting the homesteads and industries around Birmingham, Alabama, (and Atlanta, Georgia), Dial and Holley have depicted them through the region’s material culture.

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Thornton Dial / Memory of the Ladies That Gave Us the Good Life / 2004 / Tin, carpet, wood, glove, washbasin, scrub brush, yard ornament, motor oil bottle, paint brush, clothing, wire, enamel, and spray paint on wood / 98.5 x 82 x 10.5 inches / Image courtesy Souls Grown Deep Foundation

While walking the High Line earlier this week, I stumbled upon a piece that employs objects commonly seen in New York City. Artist Josh Kline has capitalized on the cultural meanings of purchased, recognizable things to highlight inherent vices within NYC life. Rather than repurposing objects that provide a sense of everyday life, as Dial and Holley have, Kline is using objects as a parody of themselves and of big city culture.

The strength of Kline’s Skittles (2014) is its slow reveal. Upon approaching the work, it seems to be an advertisement for the  juice bars that have become pervasive in Manhattan.

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On closer inspection, the subversive humor of his project comes out (in the form of ingredient lists):

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While Kline’s work lacks the nuance, sophistication, and power of much Southern Vernacular material, it provides a humorous, welcomed moment in a public Manhattan space. It implores city dwellers to take the trappings of modern life a little less seriously. 

How the Audubon House Inspired my “Birds of Vacation” Snapshots.

I spent last week in Key West, Florida–the sun, sea, and saltwater were such welcomed departures from the terrible New York winter we had this year. As I’ve looked over my trip photos, one theme has really emerged:

Birds.

Of course, I took many pictures of the Hemingway House and six-toed cats, as well as the requisite images of my travel companions smiling in posed clusters. But the birds appeared again and again. Both live birds, such as herons hanging out on the coastline and pelicans being fed by local fishermen, and etched ones, seen at the Audubon House.

John James Audubon visited the Florida Keys in 1832, and stayed on a property remarkably close to the current Audubon House while researching his “Birds of America” folio. The house boasts several prints from the original Havell edition, including this fantastic White Pelican:

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Also on view: an artist’s proof from this series, of the White-Crowned Pigeon, which I absolutely loved. This proof allowed Audubon to approve the direction of the print before the full edition was made, and reminds me how collaborative the process between artist and skilled printmaker can be.

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Inspired by Mr. Audubon, I found myself observing birds around the island. Whilst my approach to documenting them varied slightly (no birds were killed, no beautiful watercolors were made, and no science will be advanced!), I did understand how Key West could’ve energized his work. Three of my favorite snapshots:

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While I’m no Audubon, there is a real joy in following his lead and observing these creatures, however differently.

Food as art, art as food, and the luxury of eating beauty

I have long viewed the world as an aesthetic wonderland. I love Art (with a capital A), but one of my great joys is finding beautiful and challenging things amidst activities of everyday life. Seeing art in a museum is always a joy, but to me, seeing defaced posters on a scaffold on the way to the subway is often more exhilarating, because it makes my routine just a bit more memorable.

I went to Japan for the first time last year and noticed, immediately, that aesthetics permeated everyday space in wonderfully delicate and subtle and seductive ways. The packaging for even the smallest purchase was perfectly folded, beautifully designed, and elegantly presented upon completed sale. The fruit in specialty stores was rich in color, rounded, and plump, shown as luscious objects whose looks could be rivaled only by implied flavor. The chocolates looked more like Donald Judd sculpture than confections:

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The food has stuck with me, perhaps more than anything else. The idea of consuming beauty was not new to me: every time I look at a painting, I consume with my eyes. But digesting in an actual sense–imbibing and chewing and swallowing–gives the absorption another sort of richness. This became clearest for me during a meal at Narisawa exactly one year ago. The pictures can speak for themselves:

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“Essence of the Forest”

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“Chiayu, Sweet fish”

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“”Ash 2009″ Scene of the seashore”