Street Art 1 (Amsterdam)

Hi everyone!

I’m so happy to be writing again. I know it’s only been just over a week, but that feels like forever in abroad-time. I managed to semi-sprain my ankle ten days ago from dancing too much. I know, ridiculous. But after being miserable/icing my foot and not leaving my dorm for a few days, it got better! Now I can discover more beautiful things in this beautiful city ūüôā

Here¬†is my first installation of street art in Amsterdam. I love seeing such a variety of styles and subjects all over the city. Notice how the background material plays a role in the final image. In some, divisions in the wall/door and building texture are incorporated into the meaning of the work. In others, the building material is less important. Pay attention to how the works interact with one another. Often, street art is painted next to existing works.¬†That means that there isn’t a clear boundary between the space of one work and the space of another. How do adjacent works impact each other visually? Do they enhance the viewer’s experience of a single work, or take away from it? What styles do you see employed? How would a frame change the way each work is perceived? How might weather impact the way a person consumes these works? Take all these questions into consideration when you view the following works.¬†Enjoy!

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And here’s a photo of me in front of a really interesting door-framing work:

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Until next time,

 

xoxo, Chloe ‚̧

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Welcome to the Bright Side (Bright Side Gallery-Amsterdam)

Hi all,

Hope all is well and that you’re finding a way to incorporate art and happiness into your life during these dreary winter months. It is a constant 42 degrees here in Amsterdam. That’s a billion times better than the polar vortex of New York City, but it’s still rather chilly for gallery-hopping. I’ve been making the most of it, though, and am very excited about the cool spots I’ve discovered!

Today I want to tell you about the Bright Side Gallery, a really cool space in Prinsengracht. The Bright Side Gallery prides itself on promoting the careers of upcoming artists, and allowing them to explore their unique perspectives on the world. As a result, the group show that I attended, “Welcome to the Bright Side,”¬†was an interesting combination of photography, paintings, and sculptures. Each artist contributed¬†what they were working on¬†without subscribing to a particular overarching theme. And yet, the exhibit was very cohesive because the works felt¬†fresh and innovative. The artists weren’t restrained by the limitations of a theme or title. Instead, they created works that expressed¬†their thoughts and emotions. The honesty of each work is what makes “Welcome to the Bright Side” feel so cohesive.

The first work that caught my eye was “Untitled.” It was photographed by the artist duo Synchrodogs as part of a project called “Animalism, Naturalism.” Synchrodogs is the name coined by individual photographers¬†Tania Shcheglova and Roman Noven, who create art under the joint name. You may recognize their interesting photographic style from their recent commerical work with Mango, Swarovski, and Esquire Magazine.

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On Synchrodogs’s website, the following is written:¬†“The project ‚ÄėAnimalism, Naturalism‚Äô is an attempt to keep in mind all basic instincts that come about, reaching for the raw sense of self and intimate relation to the surrounding environment and nature.”

“Untitled”¬†explores the theme of instinctuality by juxtaposing the natural with the unnatural, and the personal with the public, illustrating how human nature interacts with these dichotomies. The nude woman reclined on a rocky landscape is both in-touch with her surroundings and¬†out of place in them, depending how you interpret the landscape. At first glance, one sees a woman immersed in her own pleasure- her arched back, coquettishly bent knee and arms stretched high¬†above her head illustrate this sensual fact. The earth seems to be a part of this pleasure. It juts upward¬†right at the curve of her back, propelling it¬†upwards into an arch. Her feet skate along the rough ground; this action alone draws her knee upward in a build-up of tension. And yet, when one takes a step back he realizes that her landscape is surreal. The¬†pitch-black sky gives this photograph the appearance that it has been shot in space. The rocky earth then becomes recognizable as a craterous moon. Suddenly she no longer appears at home in her landscape. She begins to resemble a paper doll cut-out, trimmed along the edges and pasted on a a picture of the moon. We, as viewers, are forced to question what her relationship is with her landscape. Is it natural to her, feeding her sexual energy in an intimate relationship, or is it alien? Has she been placed there for the viewer to gaze at? If the latter is true, then the scene is a public one, and does not depict a personal exploration of intimacy.

Which leads me to the second dichotomy: private vs. public. The figure is in the midst of exploring her body, an inherently private act. And yet it has been broadcasted for the public to see. Does this compromise the intimacy of her actions, or is the public a factor in her pleasure? Does she enjoy us watching her, or is it merely coincidence that we happen upon her in her reverie? Are we invading her space, taking advantage of her state of nakedness? These are the questions that “Untitled” presents and forces the viewer to grapple with. Looking at “Untitled” is an experience of oscillating between comfort and discomfort, as we question what constitutes nature, and how we define public vs. private space.

 

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Another artist at Bright Side Gallery whose art I particularly enjoy is Martine Johanna. Her two works,”After Hours” and”Solanum,” are aesthetic masterpieces.

Here is the first, an acrylic painting on wood completed in 2016.

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“After Hours” is a sensory delight. The figure’s skin is a dewy, cool purple tinged with hints of fiery orange and glimpses of white. Specks of confetti cover the surface of the painting, leading the viewer to feel as if confetti is raining from the sky. The figure’s blue eyes are coated in a thin layer of gloss. She looks just to the left of us, as if she is staring at some invisible wall, the way one does when one is day-dreaming. Her essence¬†feels mystical because of the unnatural hue of the portrait. There is something magical about her purple skin, the unexplained confetti, and the incompleteness of her form. If you look closely, you can see that the brushstrokes constructing¬†her are very apparent. Patches of color and cross-hatched lines visibly compose her figure, while also¬†highlighting the fact that she is a product of paint.

It is impossible to ignore the figure behind her, shielding his or her face in a shadowed hand. The entire face is covered in darkness, light seeming to illuminate the secondary figure’s nails and fingers, but not his or her¬†identity. Is this meant to be the soul of the primary figure, some kind of physical depiction of her inner emotions? Or is this a character who interacts with the primary figure? My first impression is the former because the two¬†share the same¬†hair color. Furthermore, the secondary figure is too dark to exist in physical space besides the brightly illuminated figure. One can make all kinds of conjectures about why this young woman is brooding- why a physical form has been given to her inner demons. It is all part of the mystical fairytale that Johanna has created.

I was also quite fond of this second work by Johanna, entitled “Solanum.”

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I apologize for the horrendous flash situation in this photograph. I decided including a poor-quality picture was better than not including a picture of this painting at all. It is too beautiful to skip over, and you can look at a less janky picture of it here. 

“Solanum” was painted a year earlier, in 2015, on linen rather than wood. It features a similarly beautiful brunette, this time in profile, her hand lifted upwards, palm out. The painting is slit down the middle with a clean vertical line. On the viewer’s left, the colors that make up the figure’s body are somewhat¬†realistic. Blue, pink and red are mixed into¬†beige to create her coloring. Her hand is distinctly more unnatural than her chest and face. The fingertips are red, as if they have been dipped in red ink, or a vat of raspberries. (Given that “Solanum” is the name of a tropical shrub, this is not impossible!) Her hand is also more distinctly lined than her upper body, which looks smooth and soft. Her hair tousles naturally around her face, as if a light breeze is passing by.

To the right of the vertical line, the image looks quite different. The figure’s skin is bright blue with a large patch of orange painted on her forearm. Her hair blows backward horizontally. The coloring on this side of the painting reminds me of cameras that read body temperature. There was a popular photo booth filter for this effect back in the day, if you recall.¬†The hotter an¬†area got, the redder the camera depicted¬†that section. ¬†Anyway, this knowledge adds a layer of interest to the already intriguing work. While it is impossible to make rhyme or reason of such a fantasy scene, it is still great fun to imagine what Johanna intended each half of this portrait to represent, and how she felt the two tied together. Perhaps the allusion to heat-sensitive cameras reveals a characteristic of this mythic creature- her skin color changes based on heat. Or maybe, the entire effect is purely aesthetic. If that were the case, I would not be disappointed. Simply staring at “Solanum” is enough to excite the senses. It is an escape into a world of magic. Doesn’t looking at this painting make you wish as if you were an ethereal being as well, drifting through a Pink Floyd light show in outer space?

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Lastly, I would like to talk about Jen Mann’s “Wallflower,” (2014). I spent a lot of time staring at this beautiful work, and noting how it made me feel the longer I stood in front of it and pondered its title, its content, and its grand size.

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Mann has been quoted saying, “In my newest series of works I challenge limitations to acceptable beauty. Limitations are death to creativity.” And yet, when I look at “Wallflower,” I do not see a non-conventional form of beauty. In fact, very little of this figure’s face and body are portrayed. It is a painting of hands, arm, neck and hair. How can one gauge beauty based on those elements?

Ah, therein lies the point of Mann’s wittily¬†titled, cleverly described, and expertly depicted painting. There ought to not be a series of body parts, properly proportioned, colored, and toned, to constitute¬†beauty. A person who simply exists, in all his/her/their wonderful parts, should be considered beautiful. Mann takes the extremities of a person not typically objectified by the media, like the shoulders, hands, and forehead of (what we assume is) a woman, and paints them beautiful.ly She covers the body in lovely shades of pink, swirling the shapes of flowers over the figure’s skin.

And yet, the figure shies away from our gaze. At the risk of sounding a bit preach-y, I propose that the figure¬†shies away because, like most people, she does not realize just how beautiful she is. She is a ‘wallflower,’ as the title suggests, content to linger in the background, on the verge of being who she wants to be. “Wallflower” feels overwhelmingly positive to me. Its colors, shapes, pun-ny title and lovely message brightened my day (pun intended). It also feels like a call-to-arms- not an aggressive announcement, but a powerful painting that reminds us all that we are too beautiful to simply be wallflowers.

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All in all, I really enjoyed the Bright Side Gallery, and I am excited to go back. I’ve found galleries in Amsterdam to be really exciting places, filled with innovative art presented in new and interesting ways. I cannot wait to eat more stroopwafels and see what other art this incredible city has to offer! I’m off to the Rijksmuseum tomorrow…

Until then!

 

xoxo, Chloe ‚̧

The Awesome (The Public House of Art- Amsterdam)

After being here in Amsterdam for almost two weeks, I finally visited an art gallery (a whole bunch of art galleries, actually). I’ve spent two weeks getting fully oriented by not one, not two, but three orientation programs here in the Netherlands. I won’t bore you with the details, but the fact of the matter is I am DONE with scavenger hunts, DONE with awkward ice-breakers and DONE with hostel bathrooms. I am free to do what I will with my days.

Which means: I am about to be eating a lot more brunch and seeing a lot more art!

One of the galleries¬†places I visited yesterday is called The Public House of Art. It is very adamant about its identity as NOT a gallery, but rather, a house in which affordable art is sold to everyone who is passionate about it. At the Public House of Art, there are four price brackets for buyers: 100 euro, 350 euro, 750 euro, and 1500 euro. I look forward to treating myself to a painting in the first price point by the end of my trip. Check out this video from the Public House of Art’s website, comedically explaining how they are different from typical art galleries.

The playful vibe of the House (I will be referring to it as a house from now on, so as to remind you all that it is not, not, not a gallery!) is emphasized by cheeky posters framed all over the space. Near the entrance is a sign that reads:

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I will be looking out for openings at the Public House of Art…

On the wall next to a row of photographs is a sign that looks like this:

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I enjoy these signs because they match the non-pretentious vibe of the House. They make the visitor- who might feel uncomfortable in a traditional gallery- feel welcomed.

This particular exhibit, “The Awesome,” is a collection of works by different artists reflecting on the phrase, “totally awesome.” In the catalogue book about the exhibit, the curators¬†write, “the awesome became cheap, you can buy them online, subscribe to them, download them, refresh them.” They ask, “can an image still confound us, amaze us, leave us in awe?”

The answer, it seems, is yes. And the artists of the Public House of Art have responded to this question with images that reveal the awesome, despite their ability to be photographed, reproduced, and reloaded. There may be thirty limited edition copies produced of every work of art, but that does not make the content of these works any less awesome.

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Here is one of my favorite works in the House, entitled “Yuddith, 9:15 AM,” by Henri Senders.

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This print celebrates the female form and the female spirit. Yuddith’s skin glows in the ethereal light. Patches of sunlight highlight the curves of her hip and her breasts, as well as the tip of her nose and forehead. Her magenta hair brings out the pink undertones of her skin, and contrasts deeply with the barren gray wasteland behind her. Yuddith looks up and away from the viewer, allowing the viewer to consume her without feeling guilty or ashamed. Yuddith’s¬†hands are positioned oddly in the air. There is too much tension in her fingers for her hands to be floating.¬†Rather, they appear to be pressing against an invisible¬†wall- perhaps a glass one. If so, she is trapped, naked in the wilderness. And yet she is remarkably calm. Her raised chin and closed eyes are the picture of sensual freedom. The image is a fantasy for the projected heterosexual male viewer. There is a beautiful, naked, otherworldly woman prancing about in the woods, unable to come any closer to the viewer due to some invisible barrier. Though the viewer desires her, she is untouchable. We look in awe upon her, and thus we carry out Henri Senders’ intention:¬†that the female body and spirit be seen as awesome, despite the fact that images of the female nude are commonplace in society. “Yiddish, 9:15 AM” reveals more about a woman’s sensuality than a Playboy cut-out or a pornographic scene. It uses tiny details to form a string of associations in the mind of the viewer. Pink hair, pink skin, blurry exposure, an invisible glass wall- are all more titillating and awe-inspiring than any Victoria’s Secret advertisement.

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I am also quite fond of this work, a mixed-media piece by Lola Cervant called “Harlequin.”

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The name of this work, Harlequin, is a response to the way the girl’s hands create a mask on her face. A Harlequin is a character from an Italian theatre style called Commedia dell’Arte, in which characters wore masks to indicate which role they were playing. The audience could identify a character purely by the mask he wore. The matte, pastel pink hue of the girl’s finger-mask contrasts with the grey pencil shading in the contours of her face. ¬†The effect is a kind of oscillation between front and back. It is difficult to focus on both her twisting pink fingers and her eyes all at once. Her wrists appear less solid than her carefully shaded lips. One struggles to find something to grab onto here; it is as if this girl lives in a plane where different dimensions can exist simultaneously.

As I stared at this work, I became less and less certain that the model was a young girl. Her slightly parted lips and intense gaze bear a maturity and sensuality not known by the prepubescent. Perhaps the mask of her hands helps to disguise her true age, and transitively, her true identity. It is ironic, then, that her name is Harlequin, because the Harlequin’s mask serves to identify him to the audience. This Harlequin mask hides her. Identity, then, is that awesome thing Cervant wants us to consider- a set of characteristics that we set aside to put into a category. If something is missing- a face, an age- can we still make sense of the whole?

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I have always been fond of psychedelic art, and was pleased to see it well represented at the Public House of Art. Here are two works that I found especially trippy and awesome:

Eugenia Loli’s “Moonstroke (Until the End of Time) and “Sunday” can be interpreted as depictions of an acid trip. While this is undoubtedly true, Loli takes the trope of the LSD moonscape and turns into something else, that reveals both the awesomeness of a hallucinogenic trip and the awesomeness of¬†humanity.

In “Moonstroke,” a boy caresses a female whose face and arms have been replaced with a psychedelic blue fabric. All of the¬†tiny details make for a trippy image- the pom poms on the girl’s dress, the rocky landscape, and the suburban boy are all tropes of psychedelic art or details meant to interest the wandering mind. And yet one still feels as if he or she walked in on a young couple enraptured by each other.

“Moon stroke” is actually¬†a lesson in tenderness. Despite the fact that we know nothing about these unidentifiable strangers, we can sense¬†the softness with which the boy cradles the girl’s back. While we cannot see the girl’s face, the boy looks right through her blue patterned skin, as if he can see something that we cannot. They are isolated in some rocky landscape, as people often feel when they are young and in love, together. It feels as if there is no one else on the planet.¬†Perhaps what is so awesome about young love is the way it makes people see stars, and feel as if they are walking on the moon.

“Sunday,” has just as many trippy motifs. Half the picture is created from black-and-white images, while the other half is technicolor. The sun is rimmed with red, and the blue sky becomes less and less saturated as it approaches the horizon. Whimsical hot air balloons dot the landscape. Black-and-white images of little boys are perched in the sand like cardboard cut-outs.

Beyond the psychedelic fascination with earth vs. sky, there is also a hint of nostalgia in “Sunday.” The title alone evokes a carefree day of play and trips to the beach to watch the hot air balloons fly close to the sun. Old-fashioned images carry inherent nostalgia in them, their grainy exposure recalling simpler days when it was harder to preserve a moment on camera.

The two boys in “Sunday” look up at the sky in awe. How awesome is it, for a little boy or a grown one, to understand the humans can fly so seemingly close to the sun? That two-legged creatures can board a jet or a balloon and soar into the sky? When did we stop thinking about how totally AWESOME it is that HUMANS CAN FLY??!?!?!

“Sunday” is a simple reminder of the awesomeness of humankind, and the way that children are often the ones to remind us, in all their youthful¬†wonder, how truly awesome the world is.

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Looking back, I wonder why I did not take more photographs in the Public House of Art. I suppose I was just enjoying looking at all the artwork so much that I simply forgot to take more pictures. But I do implore you to take a look on their website and take a look at these incredible works- so many I didn’t analyze¬†here! Marvel at awesome¬†photographs, sculptures, digital art, and paintings¬†without¬†becoming extremely depressed because you’re 20 and have a part time job at school but are currently abroad without a job and you just bought yourself a new coat because it’s cold in the Netherlands and tram tickets really add up and you can’t afford to buy the art you love.

If that described you half as well as it describes me, then you should really visit the Public House of Art.

Until next time!

 

xoxo, Chloe ‚̧