Archive for the ‘Multiple Artists’ Category

When Bad Art is Good – The Museum of Bad Art

I didn’t like discussing bad art before I went to a museum in it’s honor on a recently visit to Boston.  Openly talking negatively about poor execution of an artist’s attempt at expressing a personal point of view.  I’d rather save my passion for the praising of beautiful, thought provoking exhibitions over criticizing of a failed effort.  

I bought my movie ticket, I believe it was for Rango, walked down the stairs and took a left at the bathrooms. In the basement of the Somerville Theatre, near Tufts University, a small portion of the nearly 600 works in the Museum of Bad Art collection are on display.

Oddly formed figures, twisted and contorted, seem to reinforce why some artists rise to the top, able to grace the white walled halls of established institutions.  But that isn’t the purpose of the museum.  When I walked in, my discomfort did not immediately subside; I was afraid that these examples were to be just laughable jokes and the expense of some unknown artist.  Slowly my understanding of the concept of bad art began evolving; that despite so many factors stacked up against the work, it has some quality that the viewer finds appealing.

AnonymousThe portrait is common here.  Two paintings of Elvis, one on a velvet backdrop greet you as you enter the space.  There are no mass-produced images here; someone took the time to paint their own homage of the reproduced artistic icon.  One with a tear trailing down his cheek.


Self-Portraiture is an early form of expression for budding artists.  It is also displayed outwardly with the Eyeball.  Eyes seem to be a way artists remind themselves to look inward and the museum has several on display the day I visit.

As you make your way from one work to the next, the surroundings allow the visitor to look closely at something that they may have dismissed without a second glance just outside.  But this is art is in the purest form, truly created for the sake of creation.  Fantastical places, works that draw obvious inspiration from artwork or images difficult to interpret, all make unintentional artistic statements about self, fantasy and what is of value in our culture.

 Most of these artists featured are anonymous because the art is found in alleys and curbside leaning against trashcans, or picked up at garage sales or thrift stores for the frame, then finding their way to the museum collection.  I believe destined for their true calling on the museum’s oddly curved walls.
With tongue in cheek, the curatorial staff selects and expounds on technical abilities, execution and intent of the works.  Whether a lack of technique or extraordinarily bold color choice, the art somehow results in something compelling. Which I believe is sincerely respected.

The museum acts as a contemporary piece of art, than a museum hosing it.  Making us examine what we hold dear about our understanding of art.  Making the subjectivity of art the point of the revolving exhibition.  Since 1994 the museum has been featuring Art created for art’s sake.  And no matter how hideous the work, that is a good thing.

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iArt What iArt

January 8, 2010 7 comments


The phenomenon of Apple’s iPhone has made its way into the world of visual arts with an exhibition at the Chicago Art Department.   This personal communication device quickly became the most popular smart phone worldwide.  Part of the success of the phone is due to the applications in which you can do anything from personal organization, gaming and a multitude of art-based programs.  Those were the inspiration for Chicago Art Department’s Mike Nourse to create a course to use these phones as an artistic instrument.

In the exhibition now open at CAD’s gallery space in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, we see the abilities and fine art created by this tool.  The works range from photographs captured, processed, filtered and even sent to a printer from the device to capturing stop action (as in this example of our interview) and even a group of international artists who create their works solely on the iPhone.  That group, known as Finger-Painters create elaborate images that is comparable to traditional illustrations, but works created while riding the bus or in between phone calls.

Who knows how long the iPhone trend will last, this week Googles new Droid phone went on sale.  And tech experts believe that it will give the iPhone a healthy competition.  But after visiting this exhibition, I know for sure that the ability to capture, process and print unique, artistic works is solidly part of the art world.

(iPhone Therefore iArt Opening night party Friday January 8th, 6 – 10pm, 1837 S Halsted, Chicago IL)

Home Wreckage

You don’t pick your family, so when the holidays arrive around and families come together in joyous celebration, anxiety most likely lurks just below the surface.  To alleviate some of the stress we subscribe to certain easy to follow rules.

Avoid conversations on politics. Check!

Don’t mention certain events from the past year.  Check!

Stay positive.   Check!  J Partake in the joy being poured; regain confidence, and dissolve that delicate layer of caution.

The exhibition “Home Wreckage” examines that tension just in time to take your extended family on an outing while they are in town.   And maybe use it as a way to find some common ground with your mutual anxiety.

This multi-artists show has works by Chicago and International artists.  And although many of these are dark in context, they provide a bit of humor as well.  Two collages by Austrian artist Franz West make commercial advertisements selling joy, a bit sinister.

Several artists look at the barrie"Room Divider" by Patrick Gavinrs between families.  Patrick Gavin’s Room Divider is a simple green beam standing 6 inches tall but runs the length of the floor.  Although it isn’t a true physical barrier, the psychological division has you walking around instead of over.

The exhibition has a collection of 25 short films by Roman Signer.  In his filmed experiments, Signer creates what he calls “action sculptures”.  This films and the sculptures created are documents of destruction.  The father figure, who ones immediate finds comfort and security in, once you seen on the screen, spends his time destroying.  My favorite is of Signer in a kayak being pulled down a gravel road, presumably near his home, the cattle along the side of the road begin to run along side of him as he passes…for a moment creating a stampede.

See these and other works in the exhibition Home Wreckage, Saturdays through January 24, 2010 at Devening Projects + Editions, 3039 W Carroll St, Chicago IL 60612.   Be sure to bring a cell phone or call ahead (312) 420- 4720 to gain entry into the warehouse.


November 20, 2009 5 comments

I am not a religious man.  My spirituality is a mish-mash of a Catholic upbringing (long atrophied) and a large helping of pop culture spirituality (from Yoga to Oprah).  I guess I am more comfortable placing my faith in scientific fact, with faith being the perfect word for my belief because I have no true comprehension of science.  Its what I hold as TRUE, but yet do not fully grasp.

Visiting the exhibition Dis/Believer: Intersections of Science and Religion in Contemporary Art, I realize my faith should really be based in Art.  The spiritual connection I feel from staring at a powerful painting or provocative sculpture that translates it’s meaning without a word being uttered is magical. Maybe even a miracle?

When you first walk in to Columbia College’s Glass Curtain Gallery on the corner of 11th and Wabash in Chicago’s south Loop, you are immediately drawn towards the glowing ceiling to floor white mobile in front of you.

"The Last Lullaby"

"The Last Lullaby" by Teresa Diehl

Teresa Diehl’s installation The Last Lullaby is in response to her trip to Lebanon in 2006.  While there, she found herself in the middle of a conflict.  Rocket attacks between Israel and Lebanon were coming down are the civilian population below.   Diehl examines how life goes on and human nature allows one to numb oneself to the realities of possible death.  The glycerin molds of lambs, helicopters and bombs are heavy handed, but so are bombs.  And faith, fate and destiny are all one has to get through these times.


"Noah" by Sandra Yagi

Sandra Yagi’s paintings “Noah” and “St. Jerome” recast each of the two biblical stories to examine modern issues. In Noah, Yagi places the figure on land with the cruise ship arc, docked behind him and is surrounded by a group of extinct animals, some discovered through scientific study.

Kysa Johnson’s two paintings are gorgeous representations of religious works. Tiepolo’s Immaculate Conception inspired one painting done as a microscopic yeast colony blown up – addressing how asexual reproduction happens.  The other inspired by Carracci’s St. Catherine in Ecstasy is of the molecular structure of MDMA magnified.  Through both of these works, she is commenting on the miracles found in the bible are being achieved today.

Technology plays an extraordinary role in contemporary society.  So it is no surprise that the topic too made it into the exhibition.  The Australian collective, The Glue Society captured satellite images from Google Earth of four locations for their work “God’s Eye View”.  They composed four stories from the bible, the Parting of the Red Sea, The Garden of Eden, Noah’s Arc, surrounding by rising waters and the crucifixion of Christ.  For a second, you see these and think “could this be real”?

"God's Eye View"

"God's Eye View"(The Arc) by The Glue Society

Trong Nguyen‘s “Last Supper at CERN” incorporates text message length statements and the search for the Higgs boson or “God Particle” which some say will prove the existence of God.  He does this in a fun way.  13 turntables play gospel music.  They are set on top of a long table placed in the same way as Christ and the Apostles in  Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”.  On each record player the guests spilled spaghetti and meatballs spelling out messages in text form, “OMG!!!”, “Geeks = Gods” and “Hallelujah!”  as if the mess came as a result of the guests jumping up in celebration of  the discovery being announced.

These works help me understand a small bit of two complex topics that I’ve learned don’t have to be in opposition. Is that discovery a Miracle?  No, but the insight gained does reinforce my faith that art can make a hopeless soul like myself see.  And for that, I place my faith in the power of art.