Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Winter House: Lost & Found

by Drew Martin
I am something of a recovering dumpster diver. There was a time when collecting junk and making art from trash was central to my work. This video highlights a small show I did with found objects:

Saturday, January 25, 2014

TogetherAlone: Drawings of Unity and Solitude - The Video

by Drew Martin
In this 19-minute video I discuss the thinking behind the drawings that comprise the book I made a few years ago, TogetherAlone: Drawings of Unity and Solitude. There are also a few additional drawings discussed at the end.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Under the Hood

by Drew Martin
I have done a community photo project, which I call Under the Hood, since 2009. I have posted several articles about it over the past five years but I decided to make a more comprehensive video about this project. Enjoy:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Arjun Rocks: The Meaning of Monuments

by Drew Martin

I thought it would be great to use some fiverr talent abroad to take a look at art from a local's perspective. I liked Arjun's profile so we decided to kick off a series, called Arjun Rocks, which is his fiverr username. Arjun lives in the "Agra Circle" which has hundreds of monuments, and a few World Heritage sites including the Taj Mahal.

Here he is in front of a 400-year-old monument to Shah Jahan's horse, who died in battle. I did some fact-checking because I forgot to ask Arjun where this is located and found several write-ups that claim the horse was made in honor of Akbar the Great's horse. From the "Competent Authority - Agra" site is this description:

The horse effigy stands within the enclosure of Itibari Khan’s Mosque on Agra- Sikandara road. It is said that emperor Akbar rode his favorite horse to this spot from Delhi for a distance of 195 km. The horse got exhausted broke down and died on the spot and was buried here. Akbar installed this statue on its grave. It is a life size statue carved out of single block of red sandstone. Period- between A.D. 1580
 – 1605. The statue was originally found near a railway line just behind the present boundary and it was transferred to its present place in A.D. 1922.

Jahan ruled 1628
 – 1658, Akbar the Great ruled 1556 – 1605, between them ruled Jahangir.

Perhaps the horse is originally for Akbar and the grave/tomb (or as Arjun says "the cemetery") is for Jahan's horse...either way, I like how this plays on what we bring to a monument such as this. A monument is really specific, while a sculpture is open for interpretation even if it is as specific as something like Michelangelo's David, because the latter is both allegorical as well as metaphorical.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hello, Hello, Van Gogh Paints Yellow...Parody: The Best Form of Flattery

by Drew Martin

The first time I saw the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Thrift Shop video on YouTube, I fell out of my chair. I loved the song and liked the duo's independence in the music world. I was once a huge thrift shopper (digging in the same Santa Barbara stores where Katy Perry started her look) so the success of this unlikely topic had me at hello. I also loved the parody responses to the original. There are dozens, if not hundreds. Some are straight-up parodies, and then there is a myriad of imitations with themes which include: Harry Potter Wand Shop, Gift Shop, Pot Shop, Sweatshop, Cheese Shop, Wood Shop, .etc and one on ranching, one about pronouns, as well as one from the UF Pathology lab.

Even the lowest budget attempts have a lot of creative energy in them. Some are as professionally shot and edited as the original. I noticed there was no poke at Photoshop or one about the art world so I decided to throw my hat in the ring. I edited the images and tried to sing it but that wasn't working so I got the track from a brave soul on who advertised "I will attempt to sing or rap along to a song of your choosing with headphones on for $5." In her promotional video, she is trying to sing the original Macklemore Thrift Shop song. I reached out to her and she was game.

Take a look and see if you know all the references. I will post them in the near future.

Friday, January 17, 2014

What is the Museum of Peripheral Art?

Die Wand

by Drew Martin
I just watched the Austrian-German film Die Wand (The Wall), which I think will settle into my memory as one of my favorite films. It's beautiful, and minimal.

Humans are fascinated with tales of isolation, and how we go on cut off from the society that nurtures us. The theme is played over and over in castaway stories, be they on deserted islands, life boats, space ships, other planets, or even prison cells. They act as tutorials on survival, both from a practical point of view of how one gains sustenance, to the just as critical emotional role of how we would handle the stress and sanity of different forms of nothingness.

The Wall sets us up with a middle-aged woman, isolated in the Austrian Alps by a force-field, an invisible wall that cuts her off from the rest of the world. It is suspenseful but not in a thriller way (and it avoids all of those traps), and while the screenplay is based on Marlen Haushofer's award-winning 1963 novel of the same title, is has the sensibility and pace as a Werner Herzog documentary. Martina Gedeck, who starred in the Academy Award-winning The Lives of Others carries the film with a great, silent performance.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A 47-Second Giacometti Rap

by Drew Martin
My last post on Giacometti started drifting toward my more involved articles from previous years so to not get too high brow again, I am going to counter it with a 47-second rap about Giacometti, using some more $5 talent.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Look Me in the Profile: Feeling Tall and Skinny like a Giacometti

by Drew Martin
There is a special place in my heart for Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), who is most famous for his super tall and impossibly skinny statues with wedged faces, because that is exactly my body type, and that is how I feel when I am walking around town. Another simple reason is because I went to the end-of-year 2001 exhibition at MoMA, one of their last shows before they shut down in 2002 for more than four years of renovation and rebuilding. There was something epic about that show. I saw it at night and his walking man statues had an end-of-the-era look, walking out before the museum closed its doors, and turned off the lights. I recently stood before one of his walking man sculptures at MoMA, and not many other people took notice so it had another mood: a stalwart giant marching on as new generations of museum goers walk on by.

On Friday I was looking at myself in a live video feed and realized how weird I look. If you look at the heads of successful actors and newscasters, they have a big full jaw and round heads so that when they turn their heads there is a nice, natural rotation and transition between their frontal view and their profile. My head, by contrast is long and thin and looks like a rudder when it turns. The swing from frontal view to profile is jarring. And this is exactly what Giacometti struggled with. There was a disconnect for him between the frontal face view and the profile. His solution was to eliminate the frontal view and create two profiles that converged to form a wedge of a head. (as pictured in Bust of Diego, second from top)

I just finished Looking at Giacometti by David Sylvester and what I quickly understand was that perception drove a lot of his forms. Often I could not tell if he actually had sensory issues or incredible insight. Here are two telling passages:

The piece (Spoon-woman, pictured third from top) was inspired by African sculpture, and Giacometti often said to me that the proportions of African figures, with their large heads and short legs, were generally misunderstood in being assumed to be conceptual, that on the contrary they were perceptual, representing what we actually see when we stand opposite another person as in conversation and their head is enlarged by its facing ours while their legs are diminished by foreshortening.

I like how this second bit discusses an emotional override to our navigation of depth and perspective...

Sometimes, in a café, I watch the people going by on the opposite pavement and I see them very small, like tiny little statuettes, which I find marvelous. But it’s impossible for me to imagine that they’re life-size; at that distance they simply become appearances. If they come nearer, they become a different person. But if they come too close, say two meters away, then I simply don’t see them anymore. They’re no longer life-size, they have usurped your whole visual field and you see them as a blur. And if they get closer still, then you can’t see anything at all. You’ve gone from one domain to another. If I look at a woman on the opposite pavement and I see her as very small, I marvel at the little figure walking in space, and then, seeing her still smaller, my field of vision becomes much larger. I see a vast space above and around, which is almost limitless. If I go into a café my field of vision is almost the whole of the café; it becomes immense. I marvel every time I see this space because I can no longer believe in – how can I put it? a material, absolute reality. Everything is only appearance, isn’t it? And if the person comes nearer, I stop looking at her, but she almost stops existing, too. Or else one’s emotions become involved: I want to touch her, don’t I? Looking has lost all interest.

And fueled with lust, the vision narrows...

“When I’m walking in the street,’ Giacometti has said, ‘and see a whore from a distance with her clothes on, I see a whore. When she’s in the room and naked in front of me, I see a goddess.”

This bordello aspect of his life, like many artists in that era, conjures an uninhibited and carefree character but Giacometti restrained himself in his work…

For the last thirty years of his life, Giacometti’s work in sculpture was virtually restricted to the three themes of the bust of a man, a walking man and a standing woman, invariably looking straight ahead. Endowed with all the freedom of the modern artist to do whatever he pleases, Giacometti chose to work as if under the kind of restrictions imposed upon artists by civilizations such as Egypt and Byzantium – not only the demand for adherence to stereotypes, but insistence that the pose be formal, compact, impassive, frontal.

And Sylvester also digs deeper into the contemplation in the artwork...

And there is much that reminds me of the greatest of such philosophers, Wittgenstein, in Giacometti’s approach to his work. There is similar consuming dedication to an activity, and a similar refusal to take for granted accepted assumptions about the purpose and possibilities of that activity. There is a similar feeling that this activity is not a means of producing works of philosophy or works of art, but a search that can never lead to a final solution. There is a similar passion for economy, a passion which in Giacometti shows in the narrowness of his themes and which also exercise itself in his instinct to attenuate, to eliminate. There is a similar reluctance to make their work public.

The final solution that Sylvester writes about here is part of the puzzle. Giacometti plays with the idea of what is a finished work. He was constantly building up then stripping down his sculptures. Not only was he never finished with them but it became a statement that there would be no point in achieving a finished look because it he had no pretension for the work to be a finished statement.

The question of the unfinished and the unfinishable is, of course, one of the things that modern art is about. The traditional distinction between an unfinished and a finished work ceased to be clear a hundred years ago, having already been blurred in the late styles of such masters as Michelangelo, Titian and Rembrandt: it is, indeed, this very factor that governs our concept of ‘late style’. With the coming of Impressionism, loosely executed works began to claim the same rights as carefully executed works: whereas a study by Delacroix is a preparation for a definitive picture, a study by Boudin is intended to be seen as complete in itself; the case of Whistler vs. Ruskin was a debate on the validity of this claim. Once it was no longer possible to be certain whether a work was finished or not by looking at its degree of ‘finish,’ it followed that, not only could artists declare unfinished-looking works to be finished, they could declare finished-looking works to be unfinished. There is not radical difference between a ‘finished’ and an ‘unfinished’ Cezanne, because a Cezanne is unfinishable.

With the contemplation of completion, scale, and perception of proximity was also a difficult relationship with movement.

…movement was one of the aspects of reality that he wanted to put into his work but that he kept finding that he couldn’t bring himself to realize sculptures giving an illusion of movement, a leg advanced, an arm raised, a head looking sideways. This inhibition had led him to introduce movement by making objects in which there was a capacity for actual movement that could be fulfilled by provoking movement in the spectator, and that he had also sought to provoke movement in the spectator by creating environments, or models for them , with objects meant to be walked on, sat on, leant on.

Sylvester is a thorough writer, and I was too impatient through much of his book to be a thorough reader.  Some passages are real nuggets of art history such as:

In Cubism the logic of painting, the demands of the language itself, are discussed in terms of painting. With Dada, the very status of art, its moral validity, its cultural role, become part of the subject-matter of art, and Duchamp goes to the root of the question of what is valid as material with which to make a work of art. In one branch of Surrealism, Magritte, sets a series of semantic puzzles examining the difference between reality and a painted image of reality and the relation between them; in the other branch, the spectator’s recognition of what automatic or quasi-automatic techniques have been used can become an integral part of experience of the work. Abstract expressionism  has, of course, inherited the surrealist exploitation of automatism, but, in placing a much greater emphasis on the pictorial reality of the work, makes a new act of faith in the art, affirms the moral value of painting as an activity that arrives at the realization of an unforeseen pictorial order (often on a scale that is a direct reflection of natural human gestures, so announcing that the work mirrors the actions of a man being unconstrainedly himself). And, because no small part of the content of the work is the struggle through which its order has been evolved out of chaos this art is also self-regarding.

And then there are also very personal comments such as...

Things were made easy for him to become an artist. He had a handsome face, a clever tongue, shone at school, quickly displayed an amazing facility in painting and sculpture. His father was a successful enough artist to help him but not so successful to demoralize him. And he gave him every encouragement, sending him to study in Geneva, Italy and Paris, and continuing to subsidize him when he was well past being a student. He settled in Paris, of course…

There is also a lot of writing about memory and how working from life is working from memory. I think the most insightful comment came from the analysis of this “trap” of the copying process for the artist...

And perhaps one implication is that if we never tried to copy what we see, we could go on seeing it, could be lost in it.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Bikini Kickboxer Art Commentary: Sports & Art

by Drew Martin
Back by popular demand....Bikini Kickboxer Art Commentary!

The original Bikini Kickboxer Art Commentary was part of the 2014 MoPA kickoff. Here it is on its own.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Must See Must Play at the Museum of the Moving Image

by Drew Martin
In a recent issue of Time Out New York there was a half-page article by Aaron Stern titled Indie Essentials: 25 Must-Play Video Games, which is the name of the exhibit he detailed at the Museum of the Moving ImageI loved Indie Game: the Movie so I was eager to see this exhibit. I went with my family today, and we stayed for a few hours.

I was immediately impressed by the museum with its hip curbside appeal. We entered through an atmospheric revolving door, which looked liked it housed a smoke machine, but we soon found out that was actually a busted steam valve at the entrance. (pictured left, bottom)

The museum is 
located in Astoria, Queens in a renovated film studio building. The fairly new expansion was designed by architect Thomas Leeser. It has got such a curvaceous, white-glowing lobby space that it was hard not to see the rip curl snowdrifts (from the recent winter storm) outside in their garden courtyard as part of the design.

The original studio was built in 1920 and turned out many features and short films, including The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930), the first two Marx Brothers films.

At the exhibit, my daughter got immersed in
Braid, which is considered one of the most visually intriguing and well-designed games, while my two sons kept busy with Minecraft and many other games. Visitors can play all 25 games, on various devices, and Minecraft is even projected onto one huge wall of the space. One of the interesting aspects of the exhibit is that it does not seem weird in that setting to stand over someone's shoulder and watch him or her play the game because the visitor's participation in the games is part of the show.

The exhibit is up until March 2, and the permanent collection is also very entertaining and interactive. What my kids liked even more than
Indie Essentials was an area with eight stop-animation camera-computer stations (pictured left, middle - my two older kids at work/play)

My daughter took off her 
Hey Chickadee Elemental Earrings and used them to craft a video about city sprites. My older son made an animation by moving loose change around one of the backgrounds, and my six year old made an animation of my keys sliding down a rainbow he flipped over like a slide. (pictured top - still)

The stations are intuitive, with simple controls, and you can email a link of your file(s) posted to the museum's site where you can download or directly post your creation
 to YouTube or Facebook. I downloaded two shorts I made with a chain from my press pass lanyard, spliced them together and added music. I did the same with my daughter's clips.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Kicking off 2014 with a Little Help from Fiverr: Rapper + Bikini-Clad Kick-Boxer + ASL

by Drew Martin
Happy New Year everybody! I decided to kick off 2014 with a new video created with only $20 by assembling four $5 gigs from, which include introduction logo effects from Chennai, India, a rap song made just for the video, a bikini-clad kick-boxer, and American Sign Language. I cobbled together everything else.