Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Not Zinn, Not Banksy, but Ememem



 It seemed like a good time to post something on a lighter note. I was reminded of all the art fans who enjoy David Zinn and his tiny creatures he chalk paints on public streets where there's potholes and sidewalk cracks.There's another artist in Europe who is similarly inspired.



This artist (or artists) is known as "Ememem." He, she or them are as secretive as Banksy. All that is known about this person(s) is that the home base is in Lyon, France. 


All attempts to interview are thwarted. Yet, the plaster casts of the flacking are exhibited in France and other European galleries. Clearly, someone knows who it (or they) is and has contact.


Unlike Zinn, who is okay drawing a crowd as he works, Ememem patches the holes in the night in secret.




Even the name for the anonymous person(s) is taken from the sound the motor scooter makes as it buzzes along quiet night time streets. It is a discovery for the mornings as people go about their days.






 The works are known as "flacking." Flacking is taken from the French work for "puddle" or "pool." It is the art of repairing holes. It bears a kinship with the Japanese word " kintsugi," the art of repairing while enhancing because Ememem mostly repairs with beautiful tiles and mosaics.

While mainly used to repair sidewalks, the art of flacking is also used for repairing exterior walls and pavement. 

Whoever Ememem might be, one this is for sure - like Zinn, Banksy and others, the world is a little better for making art available to all and making the day a bit brighter. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Janet Sobel: Leading Abstract Impressionist or Primitive?

 Last week, there was a Ukrainian artist featured who is living today, but creates works based on an old system of folk art. This week is about a Ukrainian artist who passed 60 years ago, but created in the most modern of styles - Abstract Expressionism. 

Janet Olechovsky Sobel  (1893-1958) was born at a time when Russia controlled Ukraine. Her father was a victim of the Russian pogroms. In her mother's effort to make a better life for Janet and her siblings, they came to NYC when Janet was 15 years old. Within a year, she married Max Sobel and have 5 children. By age 44,with the opportunity of time, she felt a strong desire to begin painting.


Sobel used the process of painting on canvas to express her feelings. These were the feelings from her family's immigration, from the time under Russian rule, all of which she relived as she learned of the Holocaust. For her, emotion required mostly abstract expression. 





As Sobel matured in her work, she was noted by some of the most prestigious art critics of the 1940s. In fact, from 1943-1946, she was one of the most notable artists for her "unconscious surrealist phantasy," as stated by one art critic. 




By 1944, Sobel was featured not only in a one-person gallery exhibit, but also in a book about "Surrealism," as one of the "newcomers," along with Pollock, Tobey, Hoffman and others.




 Even Pollock admitted that he was inspired by Sobel while he denied Tobey's influences. (See Archive on right margin for December, 2009.)

Yet, post WW2 changed the woman's roll. She went from "Rosie the Riveter" supporting the war effort to being told to "go home, let the men have the jobs and get busy making babies." A woman's highest standing was as a "housewife." Sobel fell victim to this description with her matronly appearance, "looking like any Brooklyn housewife," as one critic described Sobel. 

Abstract expressionism became a male purview. Hence Pollock, Rothko, de Koonig, Motherwell, Gorky and other males moved ahead in the art world while Sobel faded. She became known as a "primitive painter" without any real formal education in the arts. That's why you might not have heard of her and her leading role in abstract expressionism.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Olena Skytsiuk: Petrykivka Art


 Since March is Irish American (Art) History Month, my original plan was to feature Irish artists every Thursday. As Robert Burns so well said, "The best plans o' mice an' men/Gang aft a-gley." Of course, I had to look up in the original language to quote, but I'm think you're familiar with how plans often go sideways. 



It became difficult to continue my March plan once I began to experience more posts about the artists of Ukraine and the history of their art. I thought I'd start with a contemporary artist who is keeping alive the old methods of painting. Her name is Olena Skytsiuk (1950-)\


Skytsiuk studied art at the Lviv National Academy of Arts. She blended that formal education with the Petrykivka regional art that she learned from her mother - a distinguished Petrykivka artists in her own right, whose paintings on ceramics, boxes and wood.




Petrykivka art was a folk art that passed through the generations as a decorative craft without consideration to its exceptional style and motifs. In fact, it was becoming a lost art until a revival in the 1930s by a teacher who brought together the few remaining artisans of this technique and created a school. 





One of the most important and unique methods for creating Petrykivka paintings are the use of brushes made with cat hair! This makes for art using a very delicate brush strokes.

 There's also the 2-dimensonal feature of the paintings as well as the folk symbolism. Some examples are:, Rooster:fire/spiritual awakening; Birds: happiness/harmony; Flowers: tree of life and Firebird: blessing/harbinger of doom.


Here's a small sampling of Skytsiuk's many renditions of classic and modern Petrykivka:

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Paul Henry: Irish Post-Impressionist

 In this interesting historical look at the chronology of Irish painters given as this is Irish-American (ART) History Month, this week's artist was born in a time span of the mid time of two centuries! It was a time of so many major art movements.


The artist, Paul Henry, was born in Belfast, Ireland (1876-1958). He studied art both in Ireland and in France. Eventually, returning to his beloved northern Ireland where he chronicled the spare life of the locals and the environment. 



His works, during this period, depict the hard lives as men set out to sea and women gleaned potatoes from the fields. In the process of his paintings, he also captured the movement of sky and sea in the relentless changes of his island country.


Henry, like Van Gogh, is regarded as a "post-impressionist." In small ways, there's a similarity in their works and also their subjects. (Although VG went further into the Modern than Henry) 



An interesting fact about Paul Henry was that he was color-blind on the red-green spectrum. Whether there was another issue that caused that condition is unknown. However, he lost his sight when he was in his 69th year and never regained it.  

Imagine the direction his art might have taken if he had been able to paint from post-WW2 up to mid-Century and chronical the economic and life changes that came to Ireland.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

John Lavery: Late 19th Century and Beyond

 March is a very celebratory month. It's Irish-American History Month and Women's History Month. In the way we're all drawn to our ancestry and since I featured women in 2021, this month's blog will be about the Irish-born visual artists. 




It seems we are far more familiar with Irish poets and writers than we are the visual artists in the history of Ireland. In order to make them more known, March Thursdays will feature a different Irish painter moving from 19th Century to present times.





This week is about John Lavery (1856-1941). If his works share the art of the times with other artists, perhaps it's because he was born in the same year as John Singer Sargent or was deeply influenced by Whistler. How can we know who or what influences an artist? Perhaps it was the times since we can see his style evolve.








Lavery and his wife lived through difficult world times. He was an official artist for WW1 and for the Irish War of Independence as well as their Civil War. They were both supporters of Ireland and even made their London home open for the Irish during negotiations of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. 




Sadly, he would suffer the personal loss of his wife to TB just 2 years into their marriage. It was 18 years later, before Lavery would marry again. His second wife, Lady Hazel Lavery, an Irish-American, posed many times for her husband. Most memorably as the figure on the Irish banknotes until Ireland joined the EU and replaced their currency with the Euro.








Below is one of over 400 paintings Lavery made of Lady Hazel Lavery:  

As you follow along, you can see how the dress and post-war era are changing his subjects and the style with the woman's back to the painting instead of a portrait.