Archive for the ‘Season Two’ Category

Henry Taylor

A View from the Union Rescue Mission

In the fall of 2008, I spent the night on the roof of the Union Rescue Mission. From this unique perch, I saw the wall of parking garages which acted like a barrier from the up and coming downtown artist galleries and loft s

LAMP Gallery

paces from the long suffering area known as Skid Row.  I didn’t understand why 24 hours in Los Angeles’ skid row neighborhood was a part of an arts journalism class, but I went along.

Our group toured various organizations throughout the beleaguered neighborhood, meeting with community members and organizers.  The walls of the offices were decorated with political art and posters accusing those in power of wanting to take this community away from those who have lived in it, to make way for the more desirable residents.  Others, like the LAMP Community used the power of art to communicate the struggles with addiction and psychosis of residents.  That experience gave me an understanding of a neighborhood struggling with addiction, crime, mental illness and in the name of the Safer Cities Initiative.

Henry Taylor is an artist that has been a member of the community long before the most recent influx of hipster artists.  He has witnessed Mayor Villaragosa’s efforts first hand and paints about it in his solo exhibition at Blum & Poe in Culver City.

As you walk into the exhibition, an installation filled with discarded objects greets you.  Broken beer bottles, plastic jugs and other trinkets of urban debris share the space with images of icons in black male culture. Tupac Shakur stares through the detritus from the top of a Makaveli Shoebox, an image of Kayne West torn from a magazine and a generic male in profile on the packaging for a “cool mesh” WavEnforcer Do-Rag.  Taylor is showing the many facets of male identity.

The text ‘Warning Shots Not Required‘ boldly covers a painting that takes up an entire wall of the exhibition.  A man in a white t-shirt and picked fro in the foreground stares you down.  We are forced to judge if he is someone to needs to be cleaned off those streets are protected by the controversial initiative.

That same text appears in a less bold script out side the window of a couple on their couch living their part of the American dream.  Children are in the distance playing.  The dream or lack there of, is definitely a part of this show.

Taylor’s paintings are strong, clear in their ideas. A male figure created of a painted outline stands with the star of the Sheriff’s Department looming over his shoulder, a not so subtle statement of how a man on the streets of skid row is viewed by those passing by.   Another set of paintings has two faceless men in suits and fedoras with battered chair backs above the canvases address the past with fondness and respect.

The women in Taylor’s paintings are strong, if a little simplistic.  An athletic woman wearing a Tuskegee track uniform leaps over a hurtle, another wearing a white one-piece swimsuit and heels stands tall on a beach.

The children in his paintings are innocent, full of all the hopes life has to offer without the social challenges of growing up in a neighborhood where perceptions seem to have a powerful effect on their future.

Henry Taylor’s solo exhibition is on view at the Blume & Poe Gallery (2727 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA) through May 7, 2011.

******Bonus*****-  When you are there, walk across the hall and peer into the locked gallery where a Takashi Murakami commands the room.

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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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Sunday Best

[Vimeo 10680426]

Yesterday as I was walking in my north side Chicago neighborhood, where families were getting together for Easter celebrations.  The Mexican girls across the street, dressed in pastel gowns, were out in the front yard searching for hidden eggs while the boys of the Nigerian Minister next door were well groomed in suit and tie headed off to a day of church, all were in their Sunday Best to celebrate this important day in the Christian religion.

From the series "Sunday Best" by Andreas Fischer

This glimpse into their lives reminds me of an exhibition currently at the Hyde Park Art Center.  Artist Andreas Fischer, inspired by a collection of photographs from the Montana Historical Society of men and women from generations past, dressed up in their best for these portraits, tries to create context.  Not knowing anything other than what is captured in the image gave Fischer the license to come up with modern interpretations of the traditional portrait.  You know instantly upon viewing that these are from a photograph.  You also know from the color used and the image created that he made his own story.

The faces are warped, some say Zombie-like.  Fischer says this is intentional, wanting to exaggerate for the contemporary viewer that history and artifacts are left up to the interpretation of the viewer.  That most of the images captured now, seen through the eyes of a future observer will have their context.  Dear future viewer, treat us kindly.

The exhibition ‘Sunday Best’ is on display on the first floor of the Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S. Cornell Ave) through April 18, 2010.