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Showing posts with the label Conceptual Art

Basquiat at the AGO: An Untitled Portrait

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Basquiat at the AGO: An Untitled Portrait

When asked about his frequent use of "carbon" (tar, asbestos), Basquiat shot back, "How black do you think I have to be?"1 Basquiat, quintessential black artist, brilliant rebel whose astronomical rise in the international art market in his 20s, was dead of a heroin over-dose by age 27. During his short lifetime, he produced thousands of paintings and drawings. Driven, talented, full of paradoxes, aware and vulnerable, Basquiat, wild child of his times, is the focus of a blockbuster show, 'Now's the Time,' currently on at the AGO, where over 80 of his paintings and drawings are on display until May 10, 2015.

His blackness, like everything in his life and oeuvre, is entangled with paradoxes. While he would give us each bars of black soap (Black Soap, 1981) so that when we washed we would become blacker, he moved in an almost exclusively white world. Phoebe Hoban, who knew Basquiat and wrote a vivid biography of hi…

Early Poem Painting like a Frank Stella

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Continuing with my remembrance of my years doing a degree in Fine Arts in the 1970s, and finding myself in the middle of a Conceptual Art era in which I did not belong, I suddenly made the connection with an old painting of mine and Frank Stella's famous stripes
Now I like Frank Stella as a person, - what I have heard of him in interviews (a recent Frank Stella interview with Eleanor Wachtel is brilliant), and his views as espoused in articles I've read over the years. His stripes paintings (what I knew as an art student), however, leave me on the cold side. They are certainly outstanding for their time. It's self-confident work, sure of itself. All the stripes are hand-painted (pencil lines but no tape) too. But do these works of Stella's inspire me, inspire the poetry in me? No, rather, these paintings remind me of good geometry, bordering on an Op Art. Fun, a little play with the way the eye reads its optical images.

I understand that for Stella, abstract art is …

Those Strange Anatomical Terrains: The Underlayers of Our Bodies

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Lateral Head 2012, Brenda Clews, each page: 27.9cm x 21.6cm, 11" x 8.5"; graphite, charcoal, Waterman sepia ink on Fierro paper.


I did a Fine Arts degree at York University in the 1970s, during the height of Conceptual Art. My painting teacher for 3 years, who I liked very much but who had a very different aesthetic to my 'natural' one, painted very large shit brown canvases and made rooms out of white sheets.  He was very 'in.' I was encouraged to make 'ugly' paintings that had no colour and no recognizable form. This era was a celebration of highly controlled abstract art (think of the critic Clement Greenberg and his group of artists, of Newman, Still, Frankenthaler, Bush [Pollock was passé already], of Colour Field (memory of how we were force fed this still makes me shudder) and of art in general in disintegration (a Modernism on the crux of Post-Modernism).

After finishing that degree, I did not paint for many years, only interrupting my hiatus …