Visual Playlist – Christopher Wool Style

Sell the house, sell the car, sell the kids” – Christopher Wool

Christopher Wool – Untitled, 2000

Franz Kline – Untitled, 1950

Georges Braque – The Clarinet, 1913

Francis Picabia – Lausanne Abstract, 1918

Bruce Nauman – Human/Need/Desire, 1983

Gerald Murphy – Razor, 1924

Charles Demuth – I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold, 1928

Stuart Davis – Owh! in San Pao, 1951

Robert Rauschenberg – Factum I, 1957

Jasper Johns – Colored Alphabet, 1959

Edward Ruscha – The Music from the Balconies, 1984

Artist web site:


Visual Playlist – Amy Sillman Style

“That’s the huge problem with an abstract painting. When are you done? You’re done when you don’t want to do it anymore.” – Amy Sillman

Amy Sillman – A Shape that Stands Up and Listens, 2012

Margaret Curtis – Trial By Water: The Pool Party, 2016

Philip Guston – Daydreams, 1970

Lari Pittman – Untitled #1, 2000

Sue Williams – Zbigniew, 2011

Elena Sisto – Elena Sisto, Vest, 2013

Artist web site:

Visual Playlist – Alex Katz Style

One day I just looked out the window and just decided I was going to paint a window.” – Alex Katz

Alex Katz – Twilight 1, 2008

Willem de Kooning – Untitled I from Quatre Lithographies, 1986

Jackson Pollock

Matisse – The Horse, the Rider, and the Clown, 1944

Japanese screens – Red Sun Over Autumn Grasses

Thutmose – Nefertiti Bust, 1345 BC


Artist Web site:

Seeing Like an Artist

Sculpture is the main type of art I usually blog about. I’m going to switch gears a bit and blog about painting and art in general. Recently I stopped by the MoMA and ended up buying a book called “How to See” by the painter David Salle.

Mr. Salle’s book is a collection of essays he has written, over a long period of time, reviewing the works of other contemporary artists. What attracted me to the book is that Salle choose to avoid art jargon and instead describe the art and artistic process in everyday language. I enjoyed reading his essays but that fact alone doesn’t usually cause me to blog about it.

A common technique used to convey one’s feelings about a picture/book/album is to list examples of other better know works/artists as synonyms to illustrate your point(s). Mr. Salle’s choice of examples, highlighted his extensive knowledge of contemporary artists, forced me to realize how just how little I know about the subject; especially when it comes to contemporary painting.

I’m much more likely to read a music review than a review about a painting. Perhaps because of this, I begin to think of Salle’s lists of related work/artist examples as a sort of potential visual playlist. The more I thought about it, it seemed like it would be fun to write a series of posts listing visual samples of each referenced artist, attempting to convey the point I feel that Mr. Salle was making, along with an example piece of the artist being essayed. I’m setting myself this task as a way to bolster my limited knowledge of contemporary painting. Hopefully others will enjoy viewing the resulting painting “playlists”.

XKCD: Garden

On April 5th, Randall Munroe posted his interactive April Fool’s comic that unfortunately had technical issues when originally released on the first. The comic starts with a barren landscape with a lamp. The reader can interact with the comic by adding up to three lights, which are adjustable and by pruning (deleting) growth you don’t want. If you are interested, the details on how this works can be found at the Explain XKCD wiki.

Below is my first attempt at a garden, started when I had no idea how it the interaction worked or what was going to happen. As a result I initially “pruned” a few deer, because I was afraid they would eat the plants. Fortunately a deer did return, in an unusual spot. I also really like the board with the potted plant that was added to the tree. After I read about how the lights could be adjusted I rearranged things to have as many types of light color as possible. However, the garden was well established at that point and the change, to the lights, hasn’t had much effect as yet. If you leave these garden comics up for a while, you will be able to see them “grow”.  Note: sorry to say that Mr. Munroe has turned off the “garden” server; so the links below now point to xkcd. Unfortunately I didn’t have the presence of mind to grab some screen shots; as some of the results were pretty odd. Wait – the garden server is accessible again (perhaps he read of my disappointment; that’s how I choose to think of it). I’ll take this opportunity to post some screen shots.



In the second garden, I wanted to have a big patch of ground, covered by a fully color blended light. Notice how the kittens really enjoy the patch of pure white light.



In my next garden, I want to try not using all the colors. I elected to just use blue and yellow. I also clustered the lights close together. With the lights arranged this way it looks a bit like a trail of a rocket taking off. The resulting garden seems to not be doing too well. I assume the light is likely too strong/hot. [I like the toy boats floating next to the shark fins with a the fish jumping out of the water. You can’t see that behind the large balloon, except when the wind is strong, the second cue ball has a balloon growing out of his hand.]



For my last garden I thought, why not experiment with the light source not being directly overhead. The result illustrates how blue light tends to encourage  the growth of octopus. Notice how a majority of red light seems attract bird baths. Over time I lowed the lights closer to the ground, to cover more area. I’m not sure if close proximity of the lights will inhibit growth or not. [I have to believe that wearing the double headed turtle hat while standing on stilts is fairly rare. Note the ducks sitting on the cuttle of octopuses. I made up that group term; apparently there is no name for a group of octopus, as they are very solitary creatures.]


BTW –xkcd is a great comic published three times a week.

World Keeps Getting Weirder

Just read an item about protesters picketing a Boston gallery because they were showing Renoir paintings. What?

Their complaint seems to be that they don’t like his work. Turns out that “Renoir’s deformed pink fuzzy women” are not their cup of tea. How did we get to the point where people are so narcissistic that they protest when reality doesn’t line up with their tastes?

What is that quote about parody being indistinguishable from extremism? The protesters claim that they were being ironic. So they actually like Impressionists but thought it would be terribly clever to pretend to be Westboro Baptist Church members; or something. To what end? Although they probably should be awarded a brownie point for getting the word “iconoclast” in the news.

I’m not sure this is going to get them their full 15 minutes of fame (though they did get picked up by the BBC). This most likely is one of those things where you had to be there to fully appreciate it. From a distance, it’s hard to pick up on the irony when we live in the crazy years; where plenty of people are deliriously happy to have their tastes rule over others (see our current political class).


Is Artistic Innovation a Meaningless Periodic Cycle of Fashion?

Yes. When seen from a distance, it is hard to argue otherwise. When a movement manages to generate some “heat”, in the moment, it may seem to be so much more.

Over at ArtNews they published a post called “Can Abstract Art Still Be Radical?” The item is a review of a history show on geometric abstract art put on by the Whitechapel Gallery. It sounds like the show does a good job of highlighting when the movement was so inspirational to artists. It also covers how, given the passage of time, the movement evolves into clichéd material to be quoted by more “modern” artists.

What the show then deftly gets you to consider is how the geometric form turns from a sort of window onto the future, into an oppressive, opaque blank wall, an advert for going nowhere, with no way out. That’s perhaps why much of the latter works in this chronological show betray a sense of inertia, like Peter Halley’s airless abstract canvas Auto Zone (1985), which hints more at the claustrophobic world of office blocks and daily commutes than it points to an exciting, unknown tomorrow. But then, geometric blank form, you start to feel, end up meaning what you want it to mean─it is its sheer emptiness that allows artists to project their desires and frustrations onto it. Meanwhile, since minimal geometric design has been co-opted by everyday commercial culture─thank you IKEA─it’s easy to condemn it as the slave of corporations, as in Gunilla Klingberg’s sardonic video animation that turn supermarket logos into a rotating kaleidoscope of almost-abstract patterns (Spar Loop, 2000).

A couple of random examples of geometric abstract sculpture:

Fabrizio Pedrali

Richard Walker


Is it Sculpture?

I’ve never been completely comfortable calling a nicely designed object, art. For decades museums and galleries have held exhibitions of items that the average person wouldn’t normally consider as art. Of course, part of the fun is trying to decide where the “line” between art and non-art is. In the right mood, I can also see the argument that there is no such line.

The latest item that rekindled this debate for me, was a post I saw about a couch being marketed as an “Outdoor Interactive Chair And Art Piece”. Apparently they have been installed in a couple of resorts. I’m sure they are very nice and imagine that most guests would enjoy the view while setting in them. I’m just not sure I’d call it sculpture.


Birth of Futuristic

Check out this fun post on Mental Floss, about words that were first mentioned in print 100 years ago. One of the words, “futuristic” apparently has its root in the art world:

In 1915, some folks were ready to cast off the past and ponder what ultra-modern wonders the bright new 20th century might bring. Willard Huntington Wright, in Modern Painting, Its Tendency and Meaning (1915), was apparently the first to use the word futuristic when he described the 1912 Cubist painting Man on a Balcony by Albert Gleizes.

Here is the referenced painting:

So, there you have your word for the day – Futuristic….


Is Your Kind of Creativity Hot Or Not?

I had just read a few news items about a couple of studies on how synchronization of body language improves creativity. I was hoping to turn those reports into a blog post but to me the study results boiled down to plain old confusion of causation and correlation; despite their claims to the contrary. Granted I didn’t read the actual studies, only the news reports.

Then I saw this news blog post reporting on a recently published evolutionary psychology book: ‘The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature’ by Geoffrey Miller. To me evolutionary psychology seems like an intriguing, complex subject. This news blog thought it would be most insightful to focus on listing which types of creative activities are most likely to get you laid.

To start with the author, Mr. Kaufman, agrees with the assertion that “ornamental/aesthetic displays of creativity” are sexier than “applied/technological displays of creativity”. He sums this up by quoting Daniel Nettle: “You remember Beethoven and Brahms, but can you name a single innovator in the field of sewer construction and sewage treatment?”

Maybe it’s just me but Thomas Crapper leaps to mind. It seems a bit ironic that a blogger for a scientific magazine would be tone-deaf to mass media’s traditionally poor quality reporting on science, and engineering activities; thus the public’s limited awareness of those subjects. Perhaps he believes that editorial and reporting choices aren’t a filter but a “pure reflection” of the general population.

You can click-through to the source item, to read the list of top ten hot and not creative activities. Who knew, that being in a band or taking “artistic” photographs was a turn on? If only I knew how to write psychology research grant requests that get funded, I’d be set.


Oldest Engraving Ever Found

This is “shell art” collected by Dutch geologist Eugene Dubois in Trinil, Indonesia, back in the 1890s. Seven years ago, a PhD student and an archaeologist were re-exploring the Dubois collection and made this very cool “find”.

The simple zigzag pattern, found on a fossilised shell from the Indonesian island of Java, has been dated to at least 430,000 years.

The find, reported in the journal Nature on Thursday, predates by some 300,000 years other markings made by modern humans or Neanderthals, previously thought the oldest.

The age and location of the shell suggests the pattern was carved by an even earlier human ancestor known as Homo erectus.

“It rewrites human history,” said Dr Stephen Munro, the Australian National University paleoanthropologist who made the find.

It suggests Homo erectus had considerable manual dexterity and possibly greater cognitive abilities, and raises the prospect that they might have been more “human” than previously thought. “That’s something people will argue about,” Munro said.

Some sources believe the engraving is over 540,000 years old. If you click-through to the source you will find a very interesting timeline; that includes some related ancient art finds.

What caught my eye is that a fresh clam shell would have a dark brown coat, so the etching would have made a prominent white line. The scientists suggested that this engraving may have been a practice run for a decoration on another object.


Clapton Quote About a Quote on Creativity

I’m not a huge fan of the online version of Esquire magazine. However, I saw an item about Eric Clapton and just had to click through.

It was a quick little read. Not sure it was all that insightful but I did like his comment on a quote he thinks might have been from Quincy Jones:

I don’t put something on tape until I’ve played around with it for a couple of weeks. I heard someone else say this — it may have been Quincy Jones. That he gets an idea, but he doesn’t really act on it unless it keeps coming back and starts to annoy him.


Quotes on Creativity

Quotes can be insightful, inspirational, motivational and fun. Thought I’d point you to a little set of quotes on creativity I found on Mashable. They seem to have thought it would be fun to display them as cross stitch panels, can’t say I disagree.

Here’s the one I liked the best: