It’s their story!
The art serves as the tension to want to know more.
Remember the Knock Knock/ Who’s There? from this post?
Painting = Knock Knock.
Viewer = Who’s There?
As an artist I aim for this Call and Response and how I choose my “favorite” artists though it changes constantly.
Going to college I often passed through the Berkeley Art Museum where an impressive collection of Hans Hofmann paintings were exhibited. He must have left an impression on me because people think of him when they see my work.
A few years ago the museum, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, (BAMPFA) moved to its new location with a host of various exhibits and programs. I went with a friend when it opened and asked about the Hans Hofmann collection.
“It’s being stored right now”, said the receptionist. “We’ll have a major retrospective in a few years. We do have a few of his paintings on the second floor though.”
On to the second floor. His paintings were in a tiny back corner on the left hand side. Ignoring all the other paintings I bee lined to the corner. I entered the small room and stopped. Color. Glorious pure color! Silly to say but it was like meeting a love from a long time ago. Warmth. Smiles. So good to see you.
Thirty years had passed and I now look with eyes of appreciation, understanding and greater respect. I want to know more.
Who is there?
I enjoy getting to know the lives behind the work. How were they motivated? What issues were they dealing with? Did the political and social climate effect their world? How did they work through dead ends? What about their work and life changed the course of art? Somehow knowing that Picasso kept one of his most important paintings facing the wall for 6 months before he showed anyone calms me. Or that violently destroying paintings was a recurring theme.
A few more artists come to mind:
Carybe: Originally from Argentina, Carybe visited Bahia, Brazil in 1938. He moved their permanently in 1950. I visited his studio in Salvador, Brazil recently. It was an emotional moment to sit in his studio and have coffee with his grandson. There was a strong energy in his studio which didn’t surprise me knowing how he was deeply connected to his community, family and close friends. His elegant lines, sturdy compositions and masterful use of color depict the beauty of his surroundings and the daily life of the Baianos. (You can find a blog post about him here.)
Pierre Verger: Exceptional photographer and friend to Carybe in Bahia. As I’m learning, relationships play a critical role in the life of many artists.
Helen Frankenthaler: A woman in a man’s world. Who made it.
Can’t end the list without one of my favorite grafitti artists. Limpotu, or Limpo. I first came across his work in Salvador, Brazil many years ago. His brightly colored sad faced girls and bleeding hearts pulled you in. Who paints this kind of work? I started spotting a few more around town by the beaches, on underpasses and on doorways.
Years later through the internet I learned that he moved to Sweden where he continues his art career. With the help of Instagram I know when he has left a new mark in Salvador.
Who are your favorite artists and why? How did you find them?
Leave your comment below!
PS: I’ve been staying up all night reading the book, Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art, by Sebastian Smee.
Any books on your mind? Leave your book recommendations below!