“Upstate Manhattan” is what I have taken to calling my home turf in New York City. Technically named “Inwood”, my neighborhood is a vibrant mix of different ethnicities with the Dominican population being perhaps the most widespread. Having grown up in this northernmost part of the city, alot of the visual language that I saw in “Mercado”, a new show of work by the artist Lucia Hierro, was familiar and comforting to me.
Lotto tickets, platano chips, Nikes, supermarket circulars – commonplace objects from my everyday environment are literally elevated in Hierro’s work as soft sculptures sheathed in enormous tote bags. They function, in a way, like vessels of memory.
The six bags on display house an array of mementos, and each tell its own story with these objects cast as protagonists. Interestingly, sometimes the reincarnated detritus is juxtaposed against masterpieces of artwork from the European tradition. In so doing, a conversation across time and space ensues.
As if Hierro is showing us her heritage and her legacy in one fell swoop, “Mercado” is both nostalgic and prescient. It feels as if a new era of inclusion in the annals of Art History is being forged in Hierro’s market. Codes that were previously available only to a certain part of the population are exposed in her transparent bags. Indeed, the daily life of New Yorkers from a very specific socioeconomic and cultural class are writ large as Artwork in this environment.
Whether a native New Yorker or a transplant, "Mercado" can offer you a glimpse into a city that is in flux and an artist who is memorializing her environment one bag at a time.
Is Hierro's New York something that you can relate to? If so, how do you place it in your own conception of personal and cultural history? Let me know in the comments.
"Mercado" is on view at The Elizabeth Dee Gallery in Harlem until February 24, 2018.
Also, continue to see art through my eyes on my Instagram story @victorjohnart.
Beading to me is a very solitary process. Looking at the image that I am trying to represent in my medium can be tedious and challenging, but the rewards are plenty.
Knowing that I am going to be seated for a little while (an album design takes me about 2 hours), I usually opt for the “Netflix and Chill” approach to artmaking. This means that I turn on Netflix and let it go while I lay down one. bead. at. a. time…
As for the genre, typically I opt for documentaries when I work. My rationale is that there is not a “plot” per se and I don’t need to pay as much attention to the visuals to grasp what is happening. To be more specific, I am a big fan of the Fashion Documentary, and one documentary that I cannot get enough is “The September Issue”.
I recently re-watched the film and was reminded of how much I love it for it’s outrageous characters, addictive soundtrack, not to mention its manufactured drama —Will Anna get the Coliseum shot?!? Will there be enough bags in the shoot?!? Will Grace have to shoot yet again in Alder Mansion (which, as the line goes, is an “ugly fucking house”)?!? Cue dramatic music and GASP!
Since I have seen it so many times, I pretty much recite the movie as I build my piece. And by this I am not exclusively talking about the bombastic quotes that even a one-time viewer may be able to regurgitate (ie. anything uttered by the regal André Leon Talley), but even the more obscure, yet pointed zingers. Who can ever forget Tonne Goodman standing her ground and telling the timorous art director that “I know she needs more bags, but you know – YOU GET WHAT YOU GET” in response to the demands of Editrix Wintour. Sometimes I even insert quotes from the movie when in conversation with another friend of mine who is well versed. Obsessions can do that to you.
By the time you know it, two hours have almost elapsed and Anna’s met with the powers that be at Condé Nast, Grace's tableaus are vindicated, and the issue is off to the presses! Cue fun, pop music with a commercial bent but still just the right amount of indie! The music of the end credits usually means I have enough on my board to ruminate and marinate and I can think about my next piece. And so starts the process all over again. After all, as André says, "THERE IS A FAMINE OF BEAUTY HUNNY.... A FAM-INE OF BEAU-TY!"
Do you do anything while you work? Share your obsessions with me in the comments below!
When I think of the work David Hockney, images of crisp swimming pools, intensely saturated landscapes, and mesmerizing portraits of friends come to mind. All of these facets of the artist's oeuvre, of course, are present at "David Hockney" currently at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. What took me by surprise, however, were Hockney's early works which reveled in Queerdom and unabashed sexuality.
The painting above was executed when Hockney was twenty-five years old in 1962 (Homosexuality was not decriminalized in Britain until 1967). The law did not keep Hockney from incorporating chains, vaseline, and tubes of ejaculating toothpaste in the painting. Much more raw than the later work, both in form and content, this painting was one of the standouts to me as it revealed a gestural drawing style that I didn't associate with Hockney.
A year later, the fluoride-swallowing, sadomasochistic monsters transform into sun-kissed, toned white boys in the shower replete with a red rotary phone (!!!). By this time the artist had relocated to sunny Los Angeles, a place that he had fantasized about.
"American's take showers all the time" remarked Hockney in the mid-70's. Undoubtedly the allure of wet bodies was too much for Hockney to ignore as half nude bodies in swimming pools would figure prominently in the artists work.
Also interesting was Hockney's interaction with the student body at UCLA where he taught a drawing class in the 60's. The model above was a young art student with whom Hockney became inseparable. In today's climate of nauseating political correctness and the ongoing witch hunt of sexual offenders, I cannot see a painting like the one above leaving the artist unscathed and unindicted. Yea for the 60's / Nay for the 60's — What do you think?
By the time we get to the inner galleries of the exhibition, spontaneous bottoms and exhibitionist bathers are replaced by clothed intellectuals in interior spaces. One senses a more refined approach to the work. The spaces are less flat and shapes are depicted in space in a very realistic way. Underneath the tight surface of the paintings, however, you still are welcomed into Hockey's world of queer life and freedom in homosexuality.
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Last month while traveling in Tokyo I stumbled across "The Doraemon 2017 Exhibition" at The Mori Art Center Gallery. It was inspiring to see an entire show devoted to 28 artists who have been inspired by the iconic, robotic cat whose image has become so emblematic of Japanese anime and manga.
The range of media and variety of artistic practices displayed in the exhibition reveals the level of freedom the artists had in creating their pieces. That said, the one constant, Doraemon himself, is represented uniquely throughout.
While photographer Mika Ninagawa explored a very physical relationship with a very fictional character, Miran Fukuda depicted an ethereal Doraemon whose existence is literally comprised of gods and demons plucked straight from Japanese folklore.
Takashi Murakami blended his own manga iconography with that of Doraemon creator Fujiko Fujio to create a hypnotic amalgam that embodied the past, present and future of manga and it's unrelenting hold on the Japanese psyche.
Doraemon becomes fitting inspiration for costume in Yasumasa Morimura and Junko Koike's sculptural piece depicting the character's familiar characteristics on a female mannequin in dress form.
Kayo Ume shared personal photographs of her family and their love of the esteemed cat from the future. I saw my own family creating their own memories by going to this show.
One of my favorite artists Yoshitomo Nara contributed the usual suspects — portraits of menacing children, this time dressed in ambiguous feline costumes, lending a haunting atmosphere to the otherwise jubilant show.
The show ended in a hysteric burst of joy in Sebastian Masuda's giant Doraemon sculpture made of toys and fur.
Overall I thought the show was a exciting display of contemporary art and it's engagement with lo-brow comic culture. Pop artists like Warhol and Lichtenstein come to mind as they shared certain themes in their own work.
Do you have a particular relationship with Doraemon? If so, how does the character resonate in your world??
To keep up with my gallery and museum visits, follow me on Instagram!
I am continuing to build my catalog of beaded album artwork as part of the on going series entitled "The Album Project". This month six new artworks will be available for purchase at AG Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Do visit the gallery and while you are there be sure to check older designs, including Bjork, Kraftwerk, and Bowie. New artwork for sale below.
I was recently commissioned to create portraits for the School of Visual Arts, my alma mater, to be featured in their Fall issue of “SVA STYLE”. For this issue, Creative Director Gail Anderson envisioned beaded portrait necklaces of each of the undergraduate chairs at the college. Working in my signature medium of fusible beads, I turned each chair into Fall’s HOTTEST accessory: the portrait pendant.
Creating a recognizable likeness of a person may be one of the more challenging projects an artist can attempt, and I do love a challenge. I had alot of fun doing this project, and to top it off, creating portraits of SVA professors brought me back to my roots as a young artist. Needless to say, I was humbled by the request.
These SVA students look great wearing these pendants, IMHO. Contextualized in this setting, the pendant signifies allegiance to your crew, your major, your guru. It is a talisman that symbolizes your vocation. Who knows…wearing the chair of your department around your neck might imbue you with the power to ace your final project, or maybe even land the perfect job. After all, SUCCESSORIES ARE EVERYTHING! XXX
Stay up to date with my latest work and press by subscribing to my email list on my homepage! Also, this month I was chosen as a featured artist by the folks over at Artsy Shark. More info COMING SOON!
My name is Jawanee Milan, and I am a fancy Jawa. A jawa's traditional sepia robes don't mesh with my fine taste. I opt for a more romantic color, like this tint of aubergine I am donning in my audition video above. I hope I get it! I am never without my ion blaster, nor my official CHANNEL purse (not to be confused with the bourgeois CHANEL. I like to keep it real.) In fact, I often walk into a room "Purse First" as my drag sisters like to say. It's fabulous as it both announces your presence and distinguishes where you are in the sartorial caste system. Clearly my custom made purse reveals myself to be fancy, fun, and exclusive - all true! Also, I love to dance, too, but you can see that. Never a lesson in my life. Hard to believe, I know...
Last night I had a great time at the NYC Halloween parade. Ghosts, ghouls, and several poop emojis we rampant through the streets. I even met up with one of my fellow Jawas, though he is not as fancy as myself. Truth be told, they never really are. Unfortunately, I was unable to accommodate two revelers' request of droids for sale. Traveling with my merch is never convenient. I did give them my mobile number and told them to contact me -- never know what these humans will buy!!
All-in-all a good time was had. You can see a few images from the evening below. Please peruse and enjoy!
For up to the moment updates on myself and other artistic personalities, subscribe to my friend Victor-John's email list at victorjohnart.com. JAWA!
While fashion is sometimes perceived to stand in the shadow of other design genres, not to mention the fine arts, I look to the runways season after season to feel the fantasy and dream the dream. Pattern, color, shape, the occasional bling — all are mixed together with a dose of attitude to sell garments with unabashed pomp and circumstance. With Fashion Month just behind us, I have chosen some of my favorite looks from the runways and tired them on... virtually (watch out Elle Woods!). For their artistry I would rank Hussein Chalayan, Comme des Garcons, and Thom Browne high on the list. Wearability is another issue. But why be so pedestrian? You don't ever want to wear your favorite painting, or maybe you do...
Would you be seen in any of them? All of them??
Oh, and apost about fashion week would not be complete without a view into the world of street style. Bonafide celebs and celeb wannabes alike, all are subject to the eyes of the fashion photographers' discerning eyes. Do you like me as a blonde?
It's that annual event that gets all the hipsters out with their tote bags in tow displaying their literacy up and down the halls of PS1: Printed Matter's NY Art Book Fair — or as one instagrammer called it "The Olympics of Art Book Fairs". The analogy is not completely unfounded as it often feels like you've been worked out by the time you get through the fair. Words, Words, Words (and some shapes too!) are omnipresent throughout the museum and usually the creators are on hand for a lively chat. Every year I bolster myself for the fair and try to engage with as much work as I can. It can be hard, but I usually leave with some nuggets of inspiration. Below are some highlights from the outing. Apologies to all the makers who I have failed to accredit!
Loved these works by Jonathan Monk. To execute these pieces he screened iconic graphics by Sol LeWitt onto waxed African fabrics. Appropriation was the theme and Darlene from Three Star Books appreciated my own sartorial appropriation. I was wearing a counterfeit Louis Vuitton outfit that I had custom made for me in The Philippines. Sampladelic!
The self-proclaimed "reluctant anthropologist" Mordechai Rubinstein (aka mistermort) also took interest in my look and posted a pic of my behind on his instagram with the clever caption "fake news?". I was flattered to be on his page, but what really sent me over the moon were the comments. I have included a screenshot of my fave. And here I was thinkin' I was fooling people.
Get literate with me on my Instagram. See you there!