A guide to art

Art is the ability to get lost and navigate by the gut.

Art is teachable but its answers require no education at all.

Art is the act of perpetual innovation.

Art is expression on canvass, a business product, a speech, and countless other remarkable creations.

Art is controlled randomness, a collection of disparate things.

Art is a messy mastery of movement and environment.

Art is fun, a playful and professional act.

Art is a wave of endless inspiration.

Art is both free and commercial.

Art is deliberate work, sweat and tears. Failure to acceptance is a long process.

Art is ultimately undefinable. But when you see it, you know it.

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They took our jobs 🤖

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In the 1920s, Hoover marketed its vacuum not just as a time-saver but as a human energy saver: “Hoover offers the least fatiguing way of cleaning carpets and rugs.”

If a robot wrote this blog post, would you even know the difference?

The future of automation says that robots will displace human jobs. Gmail’s auto-responder already responds to email for you.

Writes Logic, a magazine about technology.

Since the dawn of market society, owners and bosses have revelled in telling workers they were replaceable. Robots lend this centuries-old dynamic a troubling new twist: employers threaten employees with the specter of machine competition, shirking responsibility for their avaricious disposition through opportunistic appeals to tech determinism. A “jobless future” is inevitable, we are told, an irresistible outgrowth of innovation, the livelihood-devouring price of progress. (Sadly, the jobless future for the masses doesn’t resemble the jobless present of the 1 percent who live off dividends, interest, and rent, lifting nary a finger as their bank balances grow.)

I doubt the rise of technology obviates the need for human brains and hands. We are thinking machines while the automatons themselves excel in action, at least for the time being.

The bigger problem seems to be the perception of jobs. Most people allow work to justify their existence when really it’s the things we do outside the office that should make us feel needed. There’s more to life than a paycheck!

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The machines are going to be there like they’ve been all along, helping people get their work done more efficiently. The bots versus brain chasm is a non-zero-sum game.

But if it just so happens that all we do is push buttons all day, perhaps it’ll give us a chance to do other things like making better art.

Wouldn’t that be something?

Creativity is a game of inches

It comes as no surprise that bad work begets good work — the more you create, the more you have to play with.

People mistakenly believe that successful artists excelled all along. But what you see as the viewer is mostly the result of trial and error.

What I enjoy about the internet is that you can show your work. Anyone can put their art out into the world and get immediate feedback, even if the latter is crickets. Dead silence may inspire you to be more expressive, in some cases, intensely provocative.

“It is a joy to be hidden, and a disaster not to be found.”– D.W. Winnicott

It takes a lot of time and a ton of practice to recreate what you consider good taste. It also takes a lot of courage to be one of the crazy ones trying something new. But the artist can’t combat convention until they master the basics first.

From emulation to originality, the entire creative process seems to happen slowly and shimmers when it thinks you’re ready. Until then, cultivating talent is a game of inches.

Doing honest work

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When it’s all said and done, your satisfaction will depend on your level of completeness.

Should your efforts have skirted the work in any way, incompleteness may leave an indelible stain.

It’s better to surround yourself with honest efforts and avoid being dirty. Only cheaters hide in the soil.

Leonardo’s strange faces

Leonardo da Vinci made ugly beautiful, an approach Francis Bacon did well to mimic nearly five hundred years later.
Leonardo da Vinci made ugly beautiful, an approach Francis Bacon did well to mimic nearly five hundred years later.
Leonardo da Vinci made ugly beautiful, an approach Francis Bacon did well to mimic nearly five hundred years later.
Leonardo da Vinci made ugly beautiful, an approach Francis Bacon did well to mimic nearly five hundred years later.

There’s an excellent piece in the NY Times about Leonardo Da Vinci’s obsession with drawing weird faces:

Leonardo was a true Renaissance man, fascinated with everything — the mechanics of flight, architecture, engineering, botany, artillery and human anatomy — but one of his favorite private pastimes was to draw faces, either as scribbles in the margins of his notebooks or as fully conceived sketches later used for paintings.

Leonardo da Vinci made ugly beautiful, an approach Francis Bacon did well to mimic nearly five hundred years later.

Banksy’s self-destructing painting 🎈

In 2016, graffiti artist Banksy installed a shredder into one of his canvasses entitled it “Girl With Balloon.”

Just last week, Sotheby’s auction house in London sold the painting to the highest bidder for $1.37 million. The picture subsequently tore to shreds. 

“A few years ago I secretly built a shredder into a painting…in case it was ever put up for auction…”

Banksy

People are wondering whether someone at Sotheby’s was in on the prank or whether it was just careless. Purveyors of modern art do consider frames as part of the artwork, so it’s possible that Sotheby’s never thoroughly examined the painting on purpose. 

Either way, the self-destructing painting makes a mockery of the commercialization of art. Banksy quotes Picasso: “The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.”

Given Banksy’s triumph and his legendary status in art world folklore, the only question people are asking now is how much the demolished painting will be worth in the future. Guaranteed the new owner is already there picking up the scraps. 

A little bit louder now

Provocation is neither about engagement nor expression — it’s about likes and shares.

The lightning rod on Twitter will always outshine the passive inspirer, hiding from the market.

But it is the quality of interactions that deliver the message. Neither the loud nor the faint succeeds.

Speak softly and carry a big stick.

Speculative biology

In 1981, Scottish geologist Douglas Dixon wrote a book about what creatures may evolve to look like 50 million years from now post humans. The book entitled entitled After Man, came with drawings of biomorphs to illustrate his vision.

Check out the ‘flunkey’ above, a flying monkey that glides like a squirrel.

From Evolution After Humans:

Imagine a game of biogeographical musical chairs in which penguins have evolved comb-like beaks to sieve plankton as whales do, rats have replaced the big cats as dominant carnivores, cats swing through the tropical canopy chasing monkeys, and monkeys glide on flaps of skin like flying squirrels. The book’s central idea is convergent evolution: that similar traits arise independently in different species, to perform similar functions in similar environments.

Risky indecision

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In the absence of ideas, we’re lost floating at sea.

Weighed down in idea debt, a lack of action can have the same debilitating effect.

Interia is the purported enemy. Just write the truest sentence already.

What works better is facing fear and proceeding right into it.

Keep your eyes on the prize and spend your time wisely, for the latter is never under your control.

Remain undecided at your own risk. Faith knows that even the wrong ideas fail successfully.

Looking sideways

An inner radicalism tugs away at the illusion of coherence. What we strive for often makes zero sense to others, if at all to ourselves. But we feel it.

The contrarian begs to differ if only to avoid the stuckness of traditional thought.

In all likeliness, it’s the things misheard, misquoted, misunderstood — mere accidents — that provoke innovation.

“I like hearing things incorrectly. I think that’s how I get a lot of ideas is by mishearing something.” 

Tom Waits

When we remove the obsession with absolutes, we roll the dice on what could be. Never certain in any outcome, confidently looking sideways at the cracks. Think different.

Su Shi: China’s ‘Da Vinci’ set to break auction house records

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Portrait of Su Shi (via The Value)

Su Shi is known as the Chinese Leonardo whose scroll painting is set to break Christie’s auction house record for the most expensive Asian artwork of all-time.

More from Bloomberg:

Su Shi, a household name in China, was an 11th-century scholar, statesman, poet, writer, calligrapher and artist, whose painting style has influenced virtually every Chinese painter ever since, according to Kim Yu, Christie’s international senior specialist of Chinese paintings.

He began an “aesthetic revolution” that departed from the highly detailed and meticulous academic Song dynasty works, which required months to complete. Su Shi’s “Wood and Rock” is a simple and spontaneous work created for the artist’s personal pleasure and painted in one sitting, Yu said.

Measuring nearly 11 inches high, and almost 20 inches wide, the original ink-on-paper work depicts a gnarled, leafless tree and a rock behind from which a few young bamboo shoots emerge.

Paintings by Njideka Akunyili Crosby

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Nigerian-American painter Njideka Akunyili Crosby takes inspiration from her Nigerian roots and combines them into her own millennial experience of America. 

The first image above entitled ‘Home: As You See Me’ (2017) showcases objects from her grandmother’s meshed in with Crosby’s own Ikea furniture from her apartment in LA.

Akunyili Crosby became a 2017 McArthur fellow last year. Writes Art.net:

Akunyili Crosby’s paintings of herself, her family, and friends, often relaxing or embracing in their homes and other private spaces, explore cultural hybridity through a welter of references. They contain images of popular Nigerian musicians and beauty queens, ads from fashion magazines, and photographs from family events to situate themes relating to tradition and newness, politics and culture, and urban and rural in buzzing tension. African viewers may be able to immediately decode the images, while they may require some elucidation for the average Western observer.

You can see more of her work on njidekaakunyili.com.

Defining singularity in the mass

The plane I had made for Lufthansa already contained 2,000 small images of the same plane. But I wanted to get to a scale that would be comparable to what felt like the beginning of a whole different paradigm. It was the 1980s, when air transportation had truly become global: airports were becoming cities and, while the whole industry was much smaller than today, it suddenly became very clear that the airplane would change the whole world, like the telephone or television had, or the iPhone would.

Like the factories in the 1960s, the airplane had become a source of horror and beauty, a super-horror and a super-beauty. So I made this airplane that is composed of more than one million little airplanes. Each airplane is different from the others; it was all made by hand, by distorting each piece of latex rubber and photographing it, printing it, and applying it as a collage. Your mind can read and understand differences, and realizes that this airplane is made of all these different parts, each unique.

I believe in total individualism, even in the largest mass. Even in billions, everything is singular and unique. Every cell, every atom, they are singular. I think that’s the richness of art, to define this singularity in the mass.

Thomas Bayrle, an interview with Artspace

Thomas Bayrle is a German visual artist who grew up post-World War amid a world of capitalism, communism, mass production and consumerism.

His work weaves together all the economic and societal contradictions of the time, scenes of abundance minimized into pixels.

Bayrle is also one of the first artists to embrace computers as tools for making media.

Read more about Thomas Bayrle here.