The Beginning of Neo-Expressionism

Graffiti drawing of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.

Street art depicting Jean-Michel Basquiat (right) and Andy Warhol (left).
Photo credit: catwalker / Shutterstock

Andy Warhol? Surely you’re familiar with the name. Most people know him as an artist. But what about Jean-Michel Basquiat? Most people have never heard of him. Although he’s not a household name like Warhol, he was also an influential Neo-Expressionist painter in the 1980’s.

This NYC native was born in 1960 in Brooklyn, NY. His parents were Haitian-American and Puerto Rican, and he drew lots of inspiration from his heritage and cultural background. He was fluent in French, Spanish, and English.

From a young age he loved to draw and was constantly doing so. His mom in particular encouraged his interest in the arts.

He originally attracted attention under the alias SAMO for his graffiti. He sold postcards and apparel with his work featured on it as a way to fund himself after he dropped out of high school. And although he was a high school dropout, he was well educated in anatomy and the human form after he read “Gray’s Anatomy” following a surgery he underwent after being hit by a car.

After three years of street art, his work was featured in a group exhibit. His work received attention for its “fusion of words, symbols, stick figures, and animals.” Shortly after, he had a following in the art world that was willing to pay up to $50,000 for his original work. This ushered him into the beginning of his career and the beginning of Neo-Expressionism.

After he started gaining notoriety, Basquiat moved on to work with Andy Warhol. Shortly thereafter, he began his travels along the Ivory Coast and Germany.

Unfortunately, like many artists, Basquiat suffered from substance abuse problems, and as his popularity soared, so did his addiction. A drug overdose claimed his life in 1988 at the young age of 27. Though a young man, his work is said to be incredibly influential in the rise of Expressionism. It’s certainly had a great impact on the art world of New York City.

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Using Sculptures and Sound to Convey Touch

A photo of the inside of a grand piano.

A grand piano, as shown from the inside.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Kevin Beasley just had his first solo art exhibition in New York City at the Casey Kaplan gallery. It was the first exhibition in their new gallery space. Beasley grew up in Virginia but moved to New York City for his art. He received his BFA in Detroit and continued on to receive an MFA from Yale. He has had his works displayed in several New York City museums.

Beasley prefers to play with the sense of touch. He is both a sculptor and a musician, but he is particularly concerned with the tactile effects of his art. For his solo exhibition, he put small microphones in every single key of an old Steinway piano from the late 1800’s.

These microphones pick up more of a piano performance, things that would normally go unheard. All the microphones are connected to a soundboard that can be manipulated during the performance. All of this is done to create a unique interaction between Beasley, the piano performers, the audience, and an extraordinary old piano.

Most of his sculptures feature one specific object or material. Beasley then “gives structure to these materials using a mixture of polyurethane foam and resin” in the finite time he has before the resin hardens.

In this resin, one can see the movements used to create the various shapes and figures. It’s a physical history of the sculptures creation. It is important to him that each object used in a sculpture has some sort of personal connection to him. He describes how he makes each piece:

“I have some story of where everything came from and why. That’s the starting point, and the work sort of opens up from there,” Beasley explained.

He also considers the process of creation to be just as important as the final product. Even if all steps or parts aren’t evident to the viewer, they all contribute to the reception and interpretation of the work of art.

Keep an eye out for Beasley, as he as one of New York City’s artists to watch.

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New York Artist Partners with Nike

A photo of the Nike logo plastered on the outside of a building.

Photo credit: Cineberg / Shutterstock

New York artist Brian Donnelly, who goes by the name Kaws, is a Brooklyn-based designer who works alongside many big-name brands. But in his recent project for sports giant Nike, he’s going back to his rootsgraffiti-based street art.

Nike and the Parks and Recreation Department of New York City gave Kaws two side-by-side basketball courts on Stanton street in Manhattan, just down the way from where the artist lived in the 1990s. The two courts are surrounded by trees and abutted by a green space, a little oasis in the Lower East Side called Sara D. Roosevelt Park.

Kaws painted both courts in bold, dark colors and huge shapes, featuring abstracted images of Elmo and The Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. Both are black and blue silhouettes against red, orange, and yellow backgrounds. And of course, both feature the Nike Swoosh.

“My approach to the courts was very similar to how I would work on canvas,” said Kaws. “I wanted to create something that was true to my language but also considerate of this being a court that people are playing on.

“I wanted to find the sweet spot where it works visually and functionallyhow it’s broken up by the game’s lines and works with my images.”

It was also important to Kaws that the art interact well with those who will use the courts. “I like the idea of public art because it reaches people in a casual way, and when they aren’t necessarily looking for it,” he said.

People playing basketball at Sara D. Roosevelt Park may come to see the art once, but it’s the hoops that are the main draw for them. So he wanted it to be the kind of art that would engage the young. Think of it as skateboard graphics or comics.

Kaws’s courts are just one small part of Nike’s giant new campaign, “New York Made,” which will see them sponsoring community art and events all across the city through 2016 and 2017.

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The History of the Patriot Radio

A picture of the Patriot Radio.

The Patriot Radio (400-1 model) designed by Norman Bel Geddes.
Photo credit: catwalker / Shutterstock

The Patriot Radio is an iconic symbol of American nationalism, and as such, it couldn’t be more relevant to today. At a time when many people fear that the U.S. has become increasingly xenophobic, the Patriot Radio offers some clues as to why there’s been a sudden rise in jingoism.

Emerson Radio and Phonograph Corporation manufactured the Patriot Radio in 1940. It was designed by Norman Bel Geddes, who was a renowned industrial architect during that time. It was immensely popular and came at a time when tensions were high due to growing concerns over World War II.

And that’s the connection between then and now. Fanatical patriotism resurges anytime that there is a war at stake. That’s because items like the Patriot Radio are used as propaganda. Governments and institutions want people to support the war, so they appeal to peoples’ need for a sense of belonging.

Nationalism and a sense of belonging are closely tied together. However, the downside of nationalism is that it puts people in a state of mind of “us vs. them.” It’s a critical concept to understand following the political dissent in the U.S.

That’s why it’s extremely important that items like this are preserved. As the old saying goes, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Fortunately, in this case, the item has been preserved. For those who want to see it in person, there is an authentic Patriot Radio on display at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York. Industrial design collector George Kravis gifted the radio to the Cooper Hewitt Museum back in 2014. It is part of the Energizing the Everyday: Gifts From the George R. Kravis II Collection and will be on display until March 12, 2017.

The radio comes in three different models. The one on display at the Cooper Hewitt Museum is a 400-1 model, meaning that its base color is blue. The 400-2 model has a white base color and the 400-3 model has a red base color.

Due to its historical significance, the Patriot Radio has seen a price hike in its value. At the time of its release in 1940, the radio sold for just $15. Now, in 2016, the radio is worth an estimated $1,500.

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Traditional Upscale Art Meets New-Age Technology

A classical painting of angels in the sky.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Jeanette Hayes took the Internet by storm and has now taken over the art and fashion industries of New York as well. At the ripe old age of 26, Hayes has become New York’s favorite new artist. Hayes, originally from Chicago, trained at Pratt as a classical painter. She’s also made a name for herself on social media with over 180,000 Instagram followers. Her classical paintings that blended customary practices with modern technology have made her famous.

But she’s not solely a digital artist. She has created mixed-oil pieces that have elements or themes borrowed from technology. These first pieces made a statement because she mixed “the high culture of art history with the supposed lowness of pop culture and mass technology” in what many are calling a Warhol-like style.

She mixes replications of classical paintings with collages of Lisa Frank. She adds the Macbook loading wheel to other replications or makes the paintings appear like desktop screens with scroll bars. She likes to play with the relationship between art and technology, specifically things like image processing and apps like Instagram that make art accessible to the average human. Suddenly anyone can take a photo, run it through an app, and give it artistic quality and share it online.

She’s also worked with live models and taken selfies at an event for Vogue. She took these selfies and combined them with emojis and other digital effects to create unique portraits that used “low-brow” meme themes. This is something she never would have thought to do without the opportunity provided by Vogue. Are selfies and memes low now that they have been mixed with the high fashion models from Vogue? What about now that Hayes is becoming more widely recognized in the New York area?

As for Hayes, she just likes that she can create art and share it with others. It will be exciting to see what life has in store for this beautiful young artist. She certainly has a promising future ahead of her.

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The Art Students League of New York

A photo of two art students, a male and a female, painting a flower pot.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

A group of artists banded together in 1875. They were students at the National Academy of Design in NYC, primarily women. They decided that they wanted to start a new art school after rumors that their school was going to close due to budget problems. Many also felt that the Academy’s education was too traditional and conservative. Their new school was called the Art Students League.

Courses were funded by membership fees alone. This made them the only independent art school in the country. It was important that all of the studios remain autonomous and directed by the instructors without any interference from the administration. It still maintains this model to this day. This allows the students to build their own educations based on a variety of classes. There was a lot of modern appeal for this model of schooling and the school drew teachers from all across the country.

The League has committed to train artists who wish to become professionals. Their training programs support over 300 artists a year. They also have programs to help teach under-served youth in NYC recreation centers. They also train sculptors to create public works for the NYC parks. One final program positions students work in public places for display. They have raised more than $100,000 through this program.

To this day, the school does not have a set curriculum or degree program. They focus on providing a hands-on curriculum to anyone that’s serious about developing as an artist. One can take full time classes that involve two classes per week in direct contact with a teacher and more classes solo. Part time classes involve less solo time and more time working directly with a teacher.

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Max Beckmann in New York

A photo of inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Photo credit: Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

Max Beckmann, the German expressionist painter who lived all throughout Europe and died on a street corner in New York City, has returned to NYC more than 60 years after his death.

In spirit, at any rate. Under the hand of curator Sabine Rewald, 39 of Beckmann’s paintings are to be displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s a very poignant collection—among the works on display is Self-Portrait in Blue Jacket, one of Beckmann’s last paintings. It has been in the Met before, but Beckmann never saw it there. He was on his way to do just that, one cold day near Christmas in 1950, when he collapsed in front of one of the entrances to Central Park.

Volumes could be written on the allure of a painting with a history like that. Self-Portrait in Blue Jacket is a serious image, a painting of the artist smoking. Its bright colors reflect the vibrancy he often used when painting in NYC.

Also in the exhibit are a number of his earlier works. Family Picture (1920) was painted in Frankfurt and condemned by the National Socialists as “degenerate.” Paris Society (1925/31/47) is filled with disapproval, and evokes Pablo Picasso. A 1938 selfie, Self-Portrait with Horn, reinforces the way Beckmann seems to have seen himself—wary, but somehow not serious.

He loved New York, according to those who knew him. It was the first place he lived after Germany where he did feel like he was in exile. He would be glad to see his art back there, to be enjoyed in the environment that brought him back to life.

“Max Beckmann in New York” will be on display in the Met Fifth Avenue, Gallery 199 from October 19th 2016 through February 20th 2017. The exhibition is backed by the Isaacson-Draper Foundation and supported by the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

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