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kottke.org posts about art

A colorfully illustrated Cold War-era desk calendar

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2018

Cold War Calendar

Cold War Calendar

Cold War Calendar

All through the 1980s, a disgruntled Department of Defense analyst adorned his daily desk calendar with all sorts of illustrations and commentary on the news.

The majority of the entries focus on domestic politics and international affairs, providing (with the exception of 1988) a day-by-day view of the Reagan Administration and the waning years of the Cold War. It all seems to be here: the end of the Iran hostage crisis, the invasion of Afghanistan, Poland’s Solidarity movement, supply-side economics, and the Space Shuttle, to name just a few, along with hundreds of lesser-known events all but forgotten today except by scholars.

What a wonderful piece of folk art. (via the paris review)

The chimeras of the NYC subway

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 14, 2018

The NYC subway is home to many interesting characters and creatures but perhaps none as delightfully weird as Matthew Grabelsky’s straphanger chimeras.

Matthew Grabelsky

Matthew Grabelsky

Matthew Grabelsky

(via colossal)

Flowing portraits

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 07, 2018

Lee K

Lee K

I really like these dynamic swirling drawings by artist Lee.k. They’re like a cross between van Gogh, DeepDream, and Wind Map. (via colossal)

A short dance performance, collaboratively illustrated by hundreds

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 04, 2018

Over 300 different people drew/illustrated moments from a real-life dance performance, which Kristen Lauth Shaeffer then assembled into one cool animated performance. This strongly reminds me of Oliver Laric’s clip-art animation.

Visualizing our world’s ever-growing urban infrastructure

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2018

Marcus Lyons

Marcus Lyons

Marcus Lyons

For his projects Exodus and Timeout, Marcus Lyon takes overhead photographs and edits them into fantastical scenes that nonetheless seem plausible. LAX isn’t that large, no waterpark in Houston has that many pools, and Dubai’s roads do not have 70+ lanes, but you kinda have to look at satellite imagery on Google Maps to verify the fabrications.

Brutalist cuckoo clocks

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2018

Artist Guido Zimmermann has updated the architectural styling of the cuckoo clock with models based on buildings by Brutalist & Bauhaus architects.

Modern Cuckoo Clocks

Modern Cuckoo Clocks

The classic cuckoo clock is a symbol for prosperity in the middle class and is considered a kind of luxury for the home. The updated version, a prefabricated panel construction (“plattenbau”), reveals today’s urban and social life in residential blocks.

(via colossal)

Sculptures made from scraps

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2018

Artist Lydia Ricci collects scraps (of paper, cardboard, etc.) and sculpts them into everyday objects.

From Scraps

From Scraps

From Scraps

From Scraps

I love these…and there are a ton more to look at. Gah ok, just one more:

From Scraps

(via @yhaduong)

Intricate circuit board model sculpted from plasticine clay

posted by Jason Kottke   May 25, 2018

Modified Man

Modified Man

When commissioned to create some artwork for a London music duo, Tim Easley spent 80 hours making this model circuit board out of plasticine clay.

The idea behind the cover was how the modified men of the future may make artwork out of ancient circuit boards, not quite understanding what they were for because of their crude appearance. For this I created a design with representations of computer chips and wires.

He then photographed the results for an album cover and other printed matter. (via colossal)

Imaginary insects based on Star Wars characters

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2018

Star Wars Insects

Star Wars Insects

Star Wars Insects

Illustrator Richard Wilkinson is drawing a series of insects inspired by Star Wars and other pop cultural items.

This project was born out of a fascination with collecting, cataloguing and classifying.

It draws inspiration from classic Natural History illustration but explores the subjects that we love to collect and classify from the modern world: Films, TV, Video Games, Comics, Vehicles, Sneakers, Brands etc.

The first book of the series, working title: “Arthropoda Iconicus Volume I: Insects From A Far Away Galaxy”, is a collection of insects that bear a subtle yet uncanny resemblance to characters and vehicles from the worlds favourite space opera.

You can check out more on his Instagram and a few are available as prints in his online shop. (via colossal)

Plastic iceberg

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2018

Plastic Bag Iceberg

Speaking of great magazine covers, for their issue on plastic, National Geographic put artist Jorge Gamboa’s arresting plastic bag iceberg image on the cover. A simple yet powerful concept, perfectly executed.

Update: The iceberg plastic bag is not an original concept. Prior art includes a 2015 ad campaign for Tesco and a pair of stock images on Getty (date not listed). It’s unclear whether Gamboa created his image after seeing these images or if multiple people had this same idea. (via @krjohn01/status/997198395189223424)

A fake Modigliani, the Kardashians, and the American Dream

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2018

I’ve never watched a single second of the reality TV show Keeping Up with the Kardashians but I found Rachel Tashjian’s When a Modigliani Almost Changed the Kardashians’ Lives to be an engaging read.

Suddenly, Scott’s doubts seem to diminish. Kourtney finds him a few days later examining carpet samples and asks if they’re for his new home. He delivers a maxim we should all live by: “I look at carpet only for aviation and yachts.” When Kourtney asks why he’s “suddenly into this,” he begins screaming: “I’VE ALWAYS BEEN INTO BEING ULTRA RICH! I JUST NEVER BELIEVED IT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN THE WAY IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN!”

The tension builds to obscene absurdism. The idea that the Kardashians — who live in Calabasas, a city with a median income of $119,624, and who film each scene sprawled on pristine white couches in endless living rooms, and snacking off giant marble countertops in family room-sized kitchens — are dreaming about getting rich is almost too…rich. But then, this is the arc of American promise, regardless of how much money you have: this idea that something everyone else thinks is worthless or pointless is actually going to make you rich and famous is what has fueled 22 seasons of Antiques Roadshow, is perhaps the foundation of Southern Gothic literature, and is what makes people believe in the American dream to begin with.

Intricate miniature models of rusty things

posted by Jason Kottke   May 14, 2018

Eddie Putera makes incredibly detailed scale models and miniature scenes, often of rusting and decaying things.

Eddie Putera

Eddie Putera

I love his rusted-out smartphone:

Eddie Putera

You can follow Putera’s work on Instagram and purchase some of his pieces on his website (not photos, the actual miniature models).

An online collection of high-res scans of M.C. Escher’s prints

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2018

M.C. Escher

M.C. Escher

The Boston Public Library has digitized their collection of M.C. Escher prints; browse the whole collection here. The level of zoom you can get to with these images is amazing.

Traveling to Spain in 1936, Escher visited the Alhambra for the second time and visited the mosque in Córdoba. The renewed exposure to Arabic design occasioned an important change in his work — he became fascinated with geometry and symmetry and how those abstract design elements could be incorporated into his representations of the natural world. The images in his later prints are created from within his mind rather than representations of the physical world. He explored how to represent people, animals, and objects rising from the flat page and then returning, as well as how to represent the endlessness of infinity.

Browsing through these takes me back to my college days. I don’t know what the situation is now, but when I was in school, it was almost a requirement that 50% of the dorm rooms on any given floor had to have an M.C. Escher poster hanging on the wall. (via @john_overholt)

Multiplicity

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 04, 2018

Multiplicity roue

This is beautiful and fascinating, a representation of Paris through the photos shared online. The creator, Moritz Stefaner, used millions of Instagram pictures to create his Multiplicity installation. From those millions he selected 25K, then analyzed and classified them using neural networks and various processing tools. Presented on large screens, it offers touch and joystick control to dive into, pan and zoom through the clusters of images.

Today, we collectively and continuously document our city experience on social media platforms, shaping a virtual city image. Multiplicity reveals a novel view of this photographic landscape of attention and interests. How does Paris look as seen through the lens of thousands of photographers? What are the hotspots of attraction, what are the neglected corners? What are recurring poses and tropes? And how well do the published pictures reflect your personal view of the city?

Multiplicity installation

The projected display seamlessly zooms from the cloudy overview map over a gridded version of the cloud to a full grid. This layering allows to understand the clustering and neighborhood structure well in the zoomed out view, while providing a tidy and efficient image display in zoomed views.

Multiplicity control interface

Multiplicity macarons and catacombs

The interplay between automatic analysis, inspection of the results — what does the machine suggest and conclude — and my own actions — (in terms of layout, content selection, parameter tweaking…) was inspiring to explore.

As a design hint, the use of handwriting for the map annotations hints at the involvement of me as an active author and a subjective sense-making process.

The final result emerged from a dialogue between me and the city, the image contents and the algorithms, which actually managed to surprise and inspire me throughout the project.

Multiplicity hair

The linked article provides a lot more details, including the process of placing the images and the software Stefaner used. The installation is part of the 123 data exhibition in Paris.

(Via @nicolasnova.)

Pure CSS Francine

posted by Patrick Tanguay   May 02, 2018

This is kind of nuts. Diana Smith creates CSS-only hand coded “paintings.” Here are the rules she sets for herself.

  1. All elements must be typed out by hand
  2. Only Atom text editor and Chrome Developer Tools allowed.
  3. SVG use is limited, and all shapes can only use hand-plotted coordinates and bezier curves - without the aid of any graphics editor.

CSS Francine by Diana Smith

If you’ve ever done anything around web development / front end design, you’ll appreciate the craft in minutia that goes into these projects.

Studio Ghibli-style art prints

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Apr 30, 2018

nino4-1400.jpg

Dutch art gallery Cook & Becker is releasing a series of high quality art prints taken from the very Studio Ghibli-like game Ni No Kuni II. Beautiful stuff.

A large part of the appeal of the Ni No Kuni series is how the games look: it’s like you’re wandering around inside a lush Studio Ghibli animated film while playing a fantastical role-playing game. That was certainly true of the recent Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom — this in spite of the fact that the famed animation house wasn’t technically involved. It still bore the telltale signs of a Ghibli production, however, including the charming character designs of Yoshiyuki Momose and huge, stunning locations including mysterious, bioluminescent forests and vast kingdoms.

Self-portraits drawn by David Bowie

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 25, 2018

David Bowie Self Portrait

David Bowie Self Portrait

From a collection of drawings and paintings done by David Bowie, here are a couple of self-portraits…there are more if you click through.

See also every David Bowie hairstyle from 1964 to 2014.

Saltine crackers arranged artfully is extremely my jam

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 16, 2018

Kristen Meyer

This arrangement of saltine crackers by artist and prop stylist Kristen Meyer is giving me all sorts of feelings. Meyer has done many other similar arrangements (see her site and Instagram) but the geometric chaos of this one is *kisses fingers*

See also gradient food photography, Always. Be. Knolling., common objects painstakingly organized into patterns, and Things Organized Neatly. (via colossal)

The most divisive work in all of modern art: all-white paintings

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2018

Modern art museum patrons are often confounded by all-white paintings like those of Robert Ryman. Like, what the hell? It’s just a white painting? “I could do that.” In this video, Vox’s Dean Peterson talks with The Whitney’s assistant curator Elisabeth Sherman about how you might approach thinking about minimalist art.

The art critic Peter Schjeldahl, writing about a retrospective of Ryman’s work for the New Yorker, gets at what the artist is attempting to communicate with his work:

Always, Ryman invites contemplation of the light that falls on his paintings (which when I saw them, on a recent cloudy day, was glumly tender as it filtered through the Dia skylights) and of their formal relation to the rooms that contain them. There’s no savoring of style, just stark presentation. His work’s economy and quietness may be pleasing, but its chief attraction is philosophical. What is a painting? Are there values inherent in the medium’s fundamental givens — paint skin, support surface, wall — when they are denied traditional decorative and illustrative functions? Such questions absorb Ryman. Do they excite you? Your answer might betray how old you are.

And Ryman himself talked about why he uses white in an interview with Art21:

White has a tendency to make things visible. With white, you can see more of a nuance; you can see more. I’ve said before that, if you spill coffee on a white shirt, you can see the coffee very clearly. If you spill it on a dark shirt, you don’t see it as well. So, it wasn’t a matter of white, the color. I was not really interested in that. I started to cover up colors with white in the 1950s. It has only been recently, in 2004, that I did a series of white paintings in which I was actually painting the color white. Before that, I’d never really thought of white as being a color, in that sense.

City DNA

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 12, 2018

City DNA

City DNA

City DNA

After Piet Mondrian moved to New York in 1940, his work became influenced by Manhattan’s grid system, particularly expressed in Broadway Boogie Woogie. Similarly, for his City DNA project, Xinjian Lu studied satellite maps of cities like Beijing, Athens, New York, and Los Angeles and then created these maze-like paintings that resemble the street layouts of each city. Mondrian++. Holy moly, I *love* these.

From top to bottom, Lu’s paintings depict Beijing, London, and Paris.

An AI paints nightmarishly surreal nude paintings

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 29, 2018

AI Nudes

AI Nudes

Titian on shrooms? Francis Bacon turned up to 11? Picasso++? Dali, um, well, Dali would probably come up with something like this tbh. Robbie Barrat is a machine learning researcher at Stanford who’s using an AI program to generate nude portraits (more, more, and more).

Usually the machine just paints people as blobs of flesh with tendrils and limbs randomly growing out — I think it’s really surreal. I wonder if that’s how machines see us…

(via boing boing)

Holy mountains haloed by drone light

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2018

Reuben Wu Halo

Reuben Wu Halo

Reuben Wu Halo

Oh, I love these photos by Reuben Wu. As part of his project Lux Noctis, Wu flies drones in circles around mountain peaks and takes long-exposure photos, creating these beautiful haloed landscapes. Wu spoke to Colossal about his interest in zero-trace land art:

Recently Wu has evolved his process of working with the drones to form light paths above topographical peaks in the mountainous terrain. “I see it as a kind of ‘zero trace’ version of land art where the environment remains untouched by the artist, and at the same time is presented in a sublime way which speaks to 19th century Romantic painting and science and fictional imagery,” said Wu to Colossal.

Puzzle twins

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 13, 2018

Puzzle Twins

Puzzle Twins

Puzzle Twins

For her project entitled Within 15 Minutes, artist Alma Haser made identical jigsaw puzzles out of portraits she’d taken of identical twins and then swapped every other piece when putting them together, creating these serendipitously fragmented portraits. She said of her first attempt last year:

So today for no apparent reason I thought I’d test out a crazy idea I had. For the project I have been switching just the faces of the identical twins, but today I decided to see what it would look like to swap every other pieces with reach other. Completely entwining the beautiful @being__her sisters. And wow, what an effect! It really make you double take at their faces, trying to decipher one for the other.

You can follow Haser’s work, including the twin puzzles, on Instagram.

Anthony McCall’s large-scale sculpture, cinema, drawing objects

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Mar 05, 2018

anthony-mccall-solid-light-works.png

Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn is currently showing six large-scale pieces by local artist Anthony McCall. The main hall of the massive warehouse space is blacked out and filled with haze for the show of his Solid Light Works series, which he began work on in 1973. The pieces require thirty feet of clearance from the floor to ceiling for the vertical and horizontal cones of light.

anthony-mccall-solid-light-works-2.png

McCall regards these works as occupying a place somewhere between sculpture, cinema, and drawing: sculpture because the projected volumes must be occupied and explored by a moving spectator; cinema because these large-scale objects are not static, but structured to progressively shift and change over time; and drawing, because the genesis of each installation is a two-dimensional line-drawing.

Solid Light Works explore the intersections of light, movement, drawing, and space that form evanescent and ever changing three-dimensional forms that exist not only as “objects” in space but also as environments to be experienced.

In anticipation of the show’s closing, Pioneer Works will stay open all night on Saturday. I hope someone’s sending a street style photographer to capture the crowd.

Is Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son the most disturbing painting?

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 01, 2018

In the latest installment of Nerdwriter, Evan Puschak explains why Francisco Goya’s painting Saturn Devouring His Son is so disturbing, not only from the standpoint of the subject matter but also the circumstances surrounding its creation.

I am especially fond of Art History Nerdwriter because the first video of his I ever watched was on Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Socrates. I’ve been a fan ever since.

3000 years of art in just three minutes

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2018

This short film from 1968, set to Classical Gas, shows 3000 years of fine art in just three minutes. As the final frame of the film says:

You have just had all of the Great Art of the World indelibly etched in your brain. You are now cultured.

As mesmerizing as the film is, especially for 1968, the backstory is perhaps even more interesting. Mason Williams, who wrote and recorded Classical Gas, saw this film by UCLA film student Dan McLaughlin and arranged, with McLaughlin’s permission, to have the original soundtrack replaced with his song and to have it aired on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on CBS, then the number one show on TV in America.

The impact of the film on television opened the door to realizations that the viewer’s mind could absorb this intense level of visual input. It was a double shot of a hundred proof music and video that polished the history of art off in three minutes! It was also the beginning of the fast images concept now called kinestasis (a rapidly-moving montage technique set to music) that has over the years been exploited so effectively by television commercials, documentaries, etc.

Curiously, a similarly produced film called American Time Capsule also aired on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour that year. Directed by Chuck Braverman, it showed 200 years of American history in less than 3 minutes:

McLaughlin’s film was produced and aired first (he made it in 1967) and was the inspiration for Braverman’s film (see the relevant snippets from David Sohn’s Film: the Creative Eye) but Braverman made a career out of the technique.

I was actually working in the same building as [Tommy Smothers], at CBS as an assistant — really as a messenger — trying to get into the cameraman’s union in the news department. They literally made the Comedy Hour just upstairs. I called, made a meeting, and Tommy looked at my other work and we discussed doing a film on the history of the United States — American Time Capsule. I made it and it aired on the weekend before the November ‘68 election and it was a huge hit. It catapulted me into a career. Not only did it appear on the Smothers’ Brothers Show, which was huge, but it appeared on The Tonight Show within a few weeks and then 60 Minutes picked it up. So I got a reputation right away for being the king of the fast-cut montage. I ended up doing dozens of commercials and lots of title sequences.

My favorite use of the technique is in the trailer for A Clockwork Orange:1

But anyway, getting back to Mason Williams and Classical Gas, after the success of the 3000 years of art video, he wrote a sketch about video jockeys playing music videos on TV:

As a result of the response to the CLASSICAL GAS music video, in September of 1968 I wrote up a piece for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, projecting the idea that someday VJ’s would be playing hit tapes on TV, (as well as DJ’s hit records on radio), a prophesy of what was, 13 years later, to become MTV.

All this film and media history, just barely surviving in YouTube videos, video descriptions, partial scans of out-of-print books, and interviews & obituaries scattered willy-nilly all over the we, what a mess. What a fascinating mess. (via open culture)

  1. Who made this trailer? Kubrick? His editor? Braverman? A Warner Brothers employee who was in charge of making film trailers and was a fan of Braverman? I couldn’t find any info on this.

Dazzle camouflage

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2018

In a new video for Vox, Phil Edwards talks about one of my favorite low-tech technologies: dazzle camouflage. Instead of trying to hide warships with paint the color of the ever-changing sky or sea, dazzle camouflage aimed to confuse the enemy by disguising the silhouettes and headings of ships.

World War I ships faced a unique problem. The u-boat was a new threat at the time, and its torpedoes were deadly. That led artist Norman Wilkinson to come up with dazzle camouflage (sometimes called “razzle dazzle camouflage”). The idea was to confuse u-boats about a ship’s course, rather than try to conceal its presence. In doing so, dazzle camouflage could keep torpedoes from hitting the boat — and that and other strategies proved a boon in World War I.

More recently, this strategy has been used on people’s faces to thwart facial recognition and on Cristiano Ronaldo’s football cleats to confuse opponents as which way he’s moving his feet.

Rihanna with a Pearl Earring

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2018

Shusaku Akaoka

Shusaku Akaoka

Shusaku Akaoka

Japanese graphic designer Shusaku Takaoka takes famous artworks and cleverly incorporates them into movies scenes or celebrity photos. If you scroll back through his earlier photos,1 you can see him experimenting with various techniques before hitting his stride around September of last year.

  1. One of my favorite things to do is scroll back through Instagram accounts like this to see the evolution not only of the work but of their self-presentation. You can often see the moment where they go, “oh shit, I’ve got lots of followers now, I’d better think more about what I post here”. See also the unbearable lightness of being yourself on social media.

Tiny origami

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 26, 2018

Tiny Origami

Tiny Origami

Tiny Origami

Origami artist Ross Symons makes tiny origami creations and posts them to his Instagram account, White on Rice. The account became pretty popular and Symons was able to turn his hobby into his full-time job doing installations, exhibitions, and social media campaigns featuring origami.

Over the weekend, Symons’ art was featured on Noticing, kottke.org’s free weekly newsletter. You can read the full issue here: Lobsters Considered, Superteens Against the Autocracy, The Mister Rogers Fan Club or subscribe here to have it land in your inbox each week.

8-bit scenes from TV shows

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2018

Pixel Art TV

Pixel Art TV

Pixel Art TV

Pixel Art TV

For his Pixel Art TV project, Gustavo Viselner illustrates scenes from TV shows in a pixelized video game style. Looks like he’s done scenes from Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale, Breaking Bad, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Seinfeld, Star Trek, and several others. (via @john_overholt)

Update: See also The Screenshots, a project by Jon Haddock from 2000 in which scenes from historical & fictional events are rendered in a The Sims-like style. (via @dens)