Roy Lichtenstein’s Revealing Archives

Among the many things that Roy Lichtenstein saved is a 1950 letter from Ohio State University, telling him that he would not be granted tenure, and would be relieved of his teaching position because he had failed to demonstrated the “substantial growth and future promise that foreshadows the future full professor.”

The letter was, of course, bad news for the artist but led to a decade in which Lichtenstein worked as a draftsman, window decorator and also honed his skills and began creating the instantly recognizable artwork that made him one of the greatest American artists of all time.

Roy Lichtenstein was very methodical. He was a note taker, kept day planners and collected copious amounts of materials related to his artwork, which have been donated to the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, to be digitized and made available to the public.

The collection, which includes oral histories and artist interviews, art object files, an audiovisual collection, personal and professional correspondence, exhibition files, and thousands of documentary photographs of the artist, his artwork, and exhibition installations, will take years to digitize.

Archivists and art historians working on the material at the Smithsonian have already discovered an incredible amount of material that sheds light on both the personal and working life of the artist.

The Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck Myths

Roy Lichtenstein had his first solo exhibit in February 1962, at the Leo Castelli Gallery. Every painting in the exhibit was sold before the show opened. The massive painting, Look Mickey, was part of that show, and one of the reasons that he became a Pop icon.

Art critics and historians tell different stories about Lichtenstein’s inspiration for the painting. The most popular story, told by English art critic Edward Lucie-Smith, is that one of Lichtenstein’s sons pointed to a Mickey Mouse comic book and said, “I bet you can’t paint as good as that, Dad.”

Lichtenstein used this image from Donald Duck Lost and Found (illustrated by Bob Grant and Bob Totten) for Look Mickey.

Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost and Found, 1960
The book was Lichtenstein’s source for Look Mickey.

 What art historians found is a Disney book, published in 1960, called Donald Duck: Lost and Found, that includes an illustration Lichtenstein used for Look Mickey, which is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Donald Duck became a recurring image in Lichtenstein’s work. As with his other artworks, Lichtenstein contrasted the feel of the cartoon with the coolness of his bold, primary colors and sharp outlines.

Virtual Interior-Portrait of a Duck at VFA

Printmaking was conducive to Lichtenstein’s Pop visions. He was a prolific and masterful printmaker. Virtual Interior – Portrait of a Duck, available at VFA, is a perfect example of Lichtenstein’s playful, yet meticulous, artwork.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the work of Roy Lichtenstein, or any of the other fine artworks, available at VFA.

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Edward Lucie-Smith. Lives of the Great 20th Century Artists. Thames & Hudson. 1999.
Susannah Gardiner. The Stories of Poets, Artists and Cartoon Characters Are All Waiting to Be Discovered in Roy Lichtenstein’s Personal Papers. February 25, 2019.
Klaus Honnef. Pop Art. TASCHEN. 2004
Gary van Wyk. Pop Art. 50 Works of Art You Should Know. PRESTEL. 2013.

Andy Warhol at the Super Bowl

Seeing Andy Warhol at the Super Bowl was a surprise…and somewhat confusing…to millions of Americans,  but it also may have garnered him a new generation of fans.

Andy Warhol at the Super Bowl

This year, Super Bowl fans watched a 45 second Burger King advertisement of Andy Warhol eating a Whopper. Ad time during the game went for more than $5 million for 30 seconds. The footage was taken from a 1982 documentary called ’66 Scenes from America by Danish director Jorgen Leth. The original scene, of Warhol slowly eating a Whopper, is four minutes long. The ad was loved by some, hated by others and confusing to many. Data from Google showed that searches for Andy Warhol spiked the night of the game.

“The whole campaign was designed to create conversation,” said Burger King Global Chief Marketing Officer Fernando Machado. “We are proud to have pushed the boundaries the way that we did. In my past five years here we never saw anything even close to that in terms of shifting perception of the brand.” Warhol died in 1987. The ad may, or may not, get more people to eat Whoppers. It may, or may not, get a new generation to appreciate Andy Warhol. Either way, the person who would have appreciated the hoopla, from start to finish was…Andy.

Andy Warhol at the Movies

Paintings can be haunting. A new movie, based on that premise, has just been released, and art lovers will relate to every wild frame in the film, including a scene with Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis. Ruben Brandt, Collector is an animated film about a psychotherapist who has nightmares, where he’s attacked by characters from famous paintings and believes that if he owns the paintings, the nightmares will stop.

Brandt enlists four of his not-so-law-abiding patients to steal the paintings. The film was conceived and directed by Hungarian artist Milorad Krstic. He has created an exciting animated heist movie, where masterpieces are stolen from such illustrious galleries as the Louvre, MoMA and the Tate.

“Sometimes I was inspired by the paintings themselves,” Kristic said, “and built scenes around them. For example, Botticelli’s Venus is this beautiful girl, and I thought it could be a fantastic turnover if she became monstrous, her long hair reaching out like an octopus. In a similar way, Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis, Elvis drawing a gun, provoked me to write a nightmare built around a duel.”

Warhol Still at the Whitney, Postponed at the Vatican

Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again, the first Warhol retrospective organized by a U.S. institution since 1989, opened in November and will be at the Whitney until March 31, 2019. The extensive exhibit, which includes more than 350 pieces, goes back to Warhol’s early work as an illustrator in the 1950s and works its way through then next four decades of his life.

The Vatican planned  major exhibit of Andy Warhol’s work this year, but the Vatican Museums director said the Warhol exhibit has been delayed due to projects celebrating the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death.

Andy Warhol’s Works at VFA

We have a variety of works by Andy Warhol in our gallery. Please contact us if you would like more information about Andy Warhol’s artwork or of  any of the other fine artists available at VFA.

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Keith Haring Exhibit at the Tate

The legacy that Keith Haring left for the world is one of hope, joy and learning.  He moved from his hometown of Kutztown, Pennsylvania to New York in 1978, when he was just twenty.

Haring died at age 31. His career was short, just ten years, but the impact he has had on the world is extraordinary.

Keith Haring at the Tate Liverpool

The Tate Liverpool is preparing for the first major exhibit of Keith Haring’s work in the U.K. The exhibit will showcase more than 85 artworks, including paintings, drawings and sculptures, some of which have never been seen outside of the U.S.

The exhibit will also display photographs, videos and posters to give visitors a feel of  1980s New York, and the culture in which Haring lived and worked. The exhibit will be on display from June 14 through November 10, 2019.

Keith Haring’s Collingwood Mural Restored

In 1984, Keith Haring visited Australia and painted a mural at the Collingwood Technical School, an inner city school in Melbourne. Haring’s art, and enthusiasm, made him a welcome distraction for students at the school. The school closed in 1987, and the mural faded, but art conservators in Melbourne fought hard to get it restored.

The video below, The Collingwood Mural: Keith Haring Uncovered, was created in 2015, after the mural restoration was completed. The video has footage from 1984, that shows the enthusiasm with which the work was received, the extraordinary reconstruction of the mural and even an interview with the thief who admitted he stole the door, complete with signature, from the mural.

Haring did dozens of murals around the world, including one, in 1986, on a section of the Berlin Wall. Before the wall was demolished in 1989, Haring wrote, in his diary:

… If it is not regarded as ‘sacred’ and ‘valuable’, then I can paint without inhibition, and experience the interaction of lines and shapes. I can paint spontaneously without worrying if it looks ‘good’; and I can let my movement and my instant reaction/response control the piece, control my energy (if there is any control at all) … It is temporary and its permanency is unimportant. Its existence is already established. It can be made permanent by the camera.

Keith Haring Works Available at VFA

Keith Haring wanted his art to be accessible to the public. His sense of design and his fearless use of colors and symbols gives his work universal appeal. Haring not only painted, but created screenprints, lithographs and ceramic pieces, some of which are available at VFA. Please contact us if you would like more information about the works of Keith Haring.

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Mark Byrnes. A Community Restores Its Keith Haring Mural. CityLab. July 20, 2018.
Patricia Baum. New Yorker Keith Haring’s work on show in the Grund. RTL. January 24, 2019.

Rene Magritte: Missing Piece of Painting Found

Rene Magritte died in 1967, at age 68, and left an unfinished painting sitting on his easel. The fascination with his work, and with the artist himself, has never waned.

The Missing Piece of the Painting

Rene Magritte recycled. It was not an uncommon practice for him, and other artists, to save money by reusing canvasses and cutting them into pieces to fit a new work. Teams of researchers  from the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and the European Centre of Archaeometry of the University of Liege, who have been studying Magritte’s works, found the last section of a painting that he did in 1927. La Pose enchantée (The Enchanted Pose) was exhibited in 1927. Three sections were found by researchers in other museums, hidden under other paintings, but the fourth, and final, piece was not found until late last year,  hidden under a painting called God is not a Saint, done in 1935.

Researchers at MoMA in New York, Moderna Museet in Stockholm and the Norwich Castle Museum in the UK had each found a piece of La Pose enchantée, but this find by Royal Museum completes the puzzle…except for the reason why Magritte cut it up such an interesting work in the first place.

This is Not a Biography of Magritte

Rene Magritte not only explored visual anomalies in his work, he also played with words. Magritte’s playfulness was the inspiration for Magritte: This is Not a Biographya graphic novel by Vincent Zabus and Thomas Campi and published by SelfMadeHero. The book tells the story of a man named Charles Singulier, who buys a bowler hat, like the one seen in many of Magritte’s paintings, and meets characters from Magritte’s paintings who come to life and tell him that he’ll have to wear the bowler forever unless he uncovers some of the secrets of Magritte’s life. Charles moves in and out of Magritte’s paintings, telling the artist’s story in a whimsical biography.

Rene Magritte’s Way With Words

Surrealist writing, like Surrealist art, was used to express spontaneous thoughts, without worrying about logic or reality. Also called Automatic Writing, it was based on the theories of Sigmund Freud, and was meant to release the ideas and imagination of the subconscious mind.

Magritte wrote often, both prose and poems, and much of his writing has been published in Rene Magritte, Selected Writings. The writings as far back as the 1920s, and are as mysterious, visual and dreamlike as his paintings:

She goes into the woods. It is bathed in twilight. Trunks and branches gleam, vague and silvery.

She goes forward slowly as if she is weary. Soon she hesitates, stops, lies down on a bed of fallen leaves.

A shout is heard in the distance, a woman’s name.

With eyes wide open she stares at a broken branch hanging on by a few threads to a huge tree.

One of her hands has closed round the object she dropped when she lay down. Through her light dress you can make out her woman’s body. Her pale face expresses extreme weariness.

Rene Magritte, Selected Writings is edited by Kathleen Rooney and Eric Plattner and translated by Jo Levy, is published by University of Minnesota Press.

Rene Magritte Lithographs at VFA

Please contact us if you would like more information about the works of Rene Magritte available at VFA.

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Barry Schwabsky. A Painter Speaks, so that His Paintings Can Remain Silent. Hyper allergic. April 23, 2017.
Daly Alberge. Magritte’s missing nudes found hidden under paintings after 80 years. The Guardian. October 3, 2013.

Polly Apfelbaum: Waiting for the UFOs

Polly Apfelbaum wants people to interact with her art. She has described herself as an in-between artist who paints, sculpts, prints and uses any medium that she feels will encourage people to participate in her exhibits. Born in Abington, Pennsylvania, in 1955, she studied painting at the Tyler School of Art in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, and at Purchase College, State University of New York. She has exhibited, in the US and internationally, since the 1980s.

Her works are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and many other major venues. She has been influenced by Bauhaus Modernism, Minimal Art, Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art and combines fine art with arts and crafts. Polly Apfelbaum lives and works in New York.

Waiting for the UFOs

The actual title of Apfelbaum’s current exhibit is Polly Apfelbaum: Waiting for the UFOs (a space set between landscape and a bunch of flowers)Waiting for the UFOs is the title of a 1979 Graham Parker song and a space set between landscape and a bunch of flowers is the way Surrealist artist Rene Magritte defined a garden. The exhibit ran in Birmingham, England before opening last week at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, kicking off the museum’s twenty-fifth anniversary.

Apfelbaum created the Kemper Museum exhibit to custom fit into the museum space. Giant, colorful rugs, which she designed and had woven by indigenous women in Oaxaca, Mexico, cover the floor of the galleries. Visitors are asked to remove their shoes and walk through the exhibit in their socks or in soft shoe coverings, supplied by the museum.

She created walls throughout the space by hanging hundreds of clay glazed beads from the ceiling, each on a single string. On the actual walls of the museum are Sun Targets, a collection of over 130 ceramic targets individually named after planets or constellations. Polly Apfelbaum: Waiting for the UFOs (a space set between landscape and a bunch of flowers) will run through April 28, 2019.

Polly Apfelbaum Fine Art Prints at VFA

Polly Apfelbaum studied printmaking as an art student, but focused much of her early career on painting and creating compositions with fabrics. In 2002, she returned to printmaking, in collaboration with master printmaker Jean-Paul Russell at Durham Press in Pennsylvania.

Her colorful woodcuts and screenprints reflect her use of vibrant colors and minimalist abstract design. Polly Apfelbaum’s Flags of Revolt and Defiance series, available at VFA, is an example of her mastery of printmaking.

Please contact us if you would like more information about Yippies, Sons of Liberty or any of the other screenprints by Polly Apfelbaum available at VFA.

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Laura Spencer.An Artist’s Colorful Exhibit Makes The Kemper Kansas City’s Place For ‘Waiting For The UFOs’. KCUR. All Things Considered. January 25, 2019.
Interview from ‘Chromatic Scale: Prints by Polly Apfelbaum’ Catalogue
‘Small Worlds: An Interview with Polly Apfelbaum and Amy Cutler’ in ‘Taking Aim: The Business of Being an Artist Today’ Edited by Marysol Nieves, Fordham University Press; 1 edition (June 13, 2011) pages 33-43

Julian Schnabel Does Van Gogh

I wanted to make a movie that wasn’t about Van Gogh. I wanted the audience to feel what it was to be him.”

Julian Schnabel’s latest film At Eternity’s Gate chronicles the last two years of the life of Vincent Van Gogh, a time when the artist lived in the south of France, was most prolific and most depressed. Van Gogh is played by Willem Dafoe, who was nominated for Best Actor in a drama at this years’ Golden Globe Awards. The role has also gotten Dafoe an Oscar nomination. He’s had three previous Oscar nominations, but this is his first in the lead actor category.

Willem Dafoe and Julian Schnabel have been friends for thirty years. Schnabel not only taught Dafoe how to paint to prepare him for the role, he also created paintings for the film, to keep it authentic. He repainted the famous self-portrait, of Van Gogh with his pipe, to look like Dafoe as Van Gogh. The film’s title is taken from a painting Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity’s Gate) that Van Gogh completed just months before his death. At Eternity’s Gate was filmed in the south of France, in the same locations where van Gogh painted.

“I wanted to make a movie that wasn’t about Van Gogh.” Schnabel said, “I wanted the audience to feel what it was to be him.” A few weeks ago, Schnabel married Louise Kugelberg, one of the film’s screenwriters. This is Schnabel’s third marriage. Julian Schnabel has directed films in the past, including The Diving Bell and the Butterfly in 2007, which garnered four Academy Award nominations and for which Schnabel received a Golden Globe for Best Director. The movie is now in wide release in the U.S.

Julian Schnabel’s Works at VFA

Julian Schnabel’s work is large and textured, much like the artist himself. Schnabel was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1951. His family moved to Texas when he was fourteen. After graduating from the University of Houston with a BFA, Schnabel attended the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program.

His plate paintings…large paintings done on a background of broken ceramic plates, gained him international attention. His work is included in the public collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney, the Met, the Guggenheim, the Tate Gallery, London and many other major museums around the world.

In his 1998 View of Dawn series Schnabel combined paint and resin on screenprint, creating a unique surface. We have several versions of the View of Dawn series available in our gallery.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the works of Julian Schnabel available at VFA.

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Nick Vivarelli. Julian Schnabel on Doing Some van Gogh Paintings Himself for ‘At Eternity’s Gate’. Variety. November 30, 2018.
Brian Welk. How Willem Dafoe Became an ‘Extension’ of ‘At Eternity’s Gate’ Director Julian Schnabel. The Wrap. January 22, 2019.
Matt Grobar. Willem Dafoe Learned How To Paint—And How To See—On ‘At Eternity’s Gate’. Deadline Hollywood. January 2, 2019.
Roger Friedman. Exclusive: Famed Artist and Director Julian Schnabel Marries for a Third Time, to Interior Designer-Film Editor Louise Kugelberg. Showbiz.411. January 7, 2019.

Chiho Aoshima Lithographs at VFA

I’m not very proficient in thinking of things in 3D and how they look in the real world. By drawing on traditional Japanese art, I express art on a flat perspective.
— Chiho Aoshima

The magic of Chiho Aoshima’s work lies in her ability to create dreamscapes that appeal to a universal sensibility. Born in Tokyo in 1974, Aoshima graduated from Hosei University with a degree in economics and found that she had a desire to create art, rather than work in finance.

Ukiyo-e and Superflat

Aoshima grew up in a culture full of traditional Japanese art, which is the foundation of her works. Ukiyo-e, the type of art that flourished in the 17th through the nineteenth centuries in Japan, especially the works of Katsushika Hokusai, had a profound influence on Aoshima. Hokusai, whose painting, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, is iconic and recognizable around the world, also painted and produced wood block prints of landscapes, flowers and even erotica. He also painted and illustrated books of Japanese folk tales, many of which included Yueri, the Japanese equivalent of ghosts.

After teaching herself how to use Adobe Illustrator, it was Hokusai’s work, modern manga and anime that shaped the direction of Aoshima’s works. “I didn’t study art,” Aoshima said, “so I’m not very proficient in thinking of things in 3D and how they look in the real world. By drawing on traditional Japanese art, I express art on a flat perspective.”

Her work paralleled the Superflat art movement, founded by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, who has influenced and supported many young artists, including Chiho Aoshima. The similarities between the works of Aoshima and those of Hokusai are apparent, although they were done centuries apart and in very different medium.

Chiho Aoshima’s works are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and the Seattle Art Museum. She has had solo and group exhibits throughout the world.

Chiho Aoshima Lithographs at VFA

Please contact us if you would like more information about Japanese Apricot, Building Head or any of the other fine art at VFA.

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Yusuf Huysal and Ili Saarinen. Interview Chiho Aoshima. TimeOut Tokyo. August 8 2016.
Saatchi Art Magazine. Chiho Aoshima Interview. Reports From Los Angeles. August 11, 2006.
ArtSpace, San Antonio. Chiho Aoshima. 2006.

Sol LeWitt: Cube Without a Corner and Cube Without a Cube at VFA

The execution is a perfunctory affair, the idea becomes a machine that makes the art.
—Sol LeWitt

If you’re a Sol LeWitt fan, and haven’t had a chance to see the Wall Drawing Retrospective at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA), there’s still plenty of time. Thanks to the Yale University Art Gallery and other donors, the exhibit will be on display until 2043.  Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective, opened to the public on November 16, 2008, a year and a half after LeWitt’s death. Beginning in 2004, LeWitt helped to design and plan the retrospective, which covers about an acre of wall space. On exhibit are 105 drawings by LeWitt, made over a 38 year period.

LeWitt stressed that his ideas are more important than their execution. “The execution is a perfunctory affair,” he wrote, “The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.”  He wrote detailed instructions, and created drawings and plans, for his assistants to follow.

It took over six months to install the exhibit. A team of twenty-two of LeWitt’s experienced assistants, some of whom had worked with him for many years, organized the drafting and painting. They were assisted by thirty-three student interns from Yale, Williams College, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and fourteen other colleges and universities, along with local artists and graduate and postgraduate students from leading art programs around the country.

Sol LeWitt’s Letter to Eva Hesse

Sol LeWitt helped to establish the Minimalist and Conceptual Art movements of the postwar era. His works appear to be simple, geometric designs, but they are carefully crafted, well-thought out and, often so complex, that they required written instructions for assistants to follow, in order to execute them properly. There was also a droll humor in LeWitt’s work, like Cube Without a Corner and Cube Without a Cube, a sculpture created in 2005, available at VFA.

LeWitt was also a generous artist and often invited young artists to display their work alongside his, to help them gain recognition. He was also a good friend to other artists, like sculptor Eva Hess, who often had self-doubt about her own life and work. The two remained friends until Hesse’s untimely death in 1970, at age 34.

LeWitt wrote a letter to Hesse, in 1965, to encourage her to keep working at her art. LeWitt’s letter was read by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, as part of the British Letters Live series, where extraordinary letters, written over the centuries from all around the world, are read by distinguished performers. LeWitt and his wife named their youngest daughter, Eva.

The Work of Sol LeWitt For Sale at VFA

Please contact us if you would like more information about Cube Without a Corner and Cube Without a Cube or any of the other fine art work available at VFA.

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Jennifer Huberdeau. Sol LeWitt: 10 years in. The Berkshire Eagle. November 9, 2018.
Neda Ulaby. Sol LeWitt: Conceptual Art Pioneer Dies at 78. NPR. April 9, 2007.
Andrew Russeth. Here Are the Instructions for Sol LeWitt’s 1971 Wall Drawing for the School of the MFA Boston. The Observer. October 01, 2012.

Julian Opie: Inspired by Boredom

I don’t invent or imagine things, just notice and record them. The choices about scale, style, language, materials and reference are my tools. I choose normal things because I must know them intimately and feel they are common currency so they can be turned into symbols. I don’t draw parrots or flamingoes, I like the boring as it’s only when you are bored that you can see. – Julian Opie

Julian Opie: Walking in Melbourne at the National Gallery of Victoria

When Julian Opie was asked to do a show in Melbourne, Australia, he got in touch with a local photographer and asked him to set up cameras in various locations around the city to photograph passers-by. The photographer sent Opie hundreds of photos, which became the basis for Opie’s Walking in Melbourne series, available at VFA.

“Some 60 drawings later,” Opie said, “I have a palette of characters and have been using them in a range of paintings and statues. Each one throws up surprises and opportunities that I could not invent – a tattoo or a tasselled dress, a goatee or the logo on a T-shirt. I have one group from the middle of the city and one from the beach. By making groups of six walkers I get a street crowd, and a list, and a kind of fashion parade.”

The Julian Opie exhibit at the National Gallery of Victoria  includes portraits, landscapes and urban themes, all in Opie’s simple, pop style. The exhibit, currently on display, will run until February 17, 2019.

The Universal Appeal of Julian Opie

Since the 1980s, when Julian Opie emerged as an  influential figure on the British art scene, his work has garnered universal appeal. Opie’s works are in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Tate, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, the Essl Collection in Vienna, the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern in Spain, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and Takamatsu City Museum of Art in Japan.

His work has recently been included in a home by Seoul-based designer, Teo Yang. The house itself is a hanok, a traditional Korean house, first designed and built in the 14th century, many of which have been disappearing to make way for modern developments.

The hanok was traditionally built to fit naturally into its surroundings, complimenting the land and fitting in with the seasonal changes that nature brings. Every detail is carefully thought out, and with that in mind, Teo Yang chose Julian Opie’s work for the home’s living room. Opie’s work is equally at home in Seoul as it is in London, Miami or Melbourne.

Walking in Melbourne Series at VFA

Walking in Melbourne, 1 through six in the series , is available at VFA. Each 25 x 62 inch relief print is framed in white, as specified by Julian Opie.

Please contact us if you would like more information about Walking in Melbourne or any of the other fine works available at VFA.

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Stephanie Bunbury. Fish in the water wall and model crows: Julian Opie’s ‘groovy’ art comes to NGV. The Sydney Morning Herald. November 17, 2018.
Ellie Stathaki. Traditional South Korean architecture meets innovation in a renovated hanok house.Wallpaper*. December 26, 2018.

Max Bill: Standing the Test of Time

The orbit of human vision has widened and art has annexed fresh territories that were formerly denied to it. – Max Bill

Max Bill was one of the most accomplished and multitalented artists of the twentieth century. Bill worked as an architect, painter, graphic and industrial artist, sculptor, designer, teacher and politician. He was able to combine fine art, science and design to create art, buildings, furniture, fonts and sculpture.

Bill was born in Switzerland in 1908. After apprenticing with a silversmith, he attended the Bauhaus in 1927, where he was heavily influenced by his teachers, including Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.

He moved to Zurich in 1929, where he began a career as a designer, whose work influenced many of the modern artists who came after him.

Max Bill’s Timeless Designs

A recent issue of Forbes magazine called Max Bill’s Chronoscope watch design,”one of the best.” “The Chronoscope remains incredibly faithful to the original designs Bill produced in the 1960s,” according to Forbes,  “adding all the quality available to a modern manufacturer.”

Bill designed the watch for the Junghans watch company in 1962 and the design has continued to be manufactured each year for the last fifty-six years. The original watches are collectors items and the current pieces are coveted for their timeless design.

Before the Chronoscope, Bill designed one of the world’s most classic kitchen clocks, one of which is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. The clock was designed by Bill, along with some of his students at the Ulm School of Design in Ulm, Germany, which he founded in 1953.

“Functional design considers the visual aspect, that is, the beauty, of an object as a component of its function,” Bill said,  “but not one that overwhelms its other primary functions.”

Max Bill’s Concrete Art

Max Bill was part of the Concrete Art movement, which began in 1930. It was an anti-impressionist movement, which advocated using clarity and mechanical painting techniques with simple elements.

Bill embraced the practice in all of his work. He used clear, clean lines in his designs of everything from buildings to furnishings.

His paintings and prints appear simple, but they are well thought out, and even the colors and materials he used were often more complex than they appear at first glance.

One of the requirements of Concrete Art, listed in the group’s manifesto in 1930, was that:

A work of art must be entirely conceived and shaped by the mind before its execution. It shall not receive anything of nature’s or sensuality’s or sentimentality’s formal data. We want to exclude lyricism, drama, symbolism, and so on.

That philosophy can be seen in Max Bill’s paintings and prints, like Combillation, a screenprint available at VFA, that Bill did on four plastic panels in 1970. His unique use of color, material and design reflect the Concrete Artists’ desire to keep things simple and relatable.

The first line of the Concrete Art manifesto is: Art in universal. Max Bill remained true to the manifesto throughout his long, illustrious career, until his death in 1994.

Max Bill Work at VFA

Please contact us if you would like more information about Combillation, or any of the other fine works available at VFA.

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Sean Lorentzen. Forbes. Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope Is Still One Of The Best Minimalist Watches. July 20,2018.
Emma Calder. Junghans timepiece snaps up Red Dot Award just weeks after release.WatchPro. May 10, 2018.
SwissInfo.Two Winterthur museums honour Switzerland’s “universal artist”. January 30,2008.

Andy Warhol For the Holidays

Celebrating Andy Warhol at VFA

I have Social Disease. I have to go out every night. If I stay home one night I start spreading rumors to my dogs.” – Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol partied a lot, especially during Christmas, a holiday that he loved to celebrate. In 1956, sixty-two years ago, Andy Warhol designed his first Christmas cards for Tiffany & Co. They were so successful that Tiffany asked him to design more. Warhol made Christmas cards for Tiffany until 1962…the year he exhibited his first Campbell’s Soup Cans.

Warhol’s art blended commercial and fine art and his energy and life style ramped up the New York art scene. At Vertu, when we think of the holidays, we celebrate the works of Andy Warhol, and remember how much fun it is to see his use of colors and composition, often sprinkled with a little diamond dust.

Andy Warhol at the Whitney

If you’re lucky enough to be spending the holidays in New York this year, you’ll be able to see the largest Andy Warhol exhibition since a  1989 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, just two years after his death, and the largest exhibition the Whitney has ever devoted to a single artist.

ANDY WARHOL — FROM A TO B AND BACK AGAIN contains over 350 of Warhol’s works, ranging from his early days as an illustrator, his POP Art, films, flower paintings, performance art, installations, photos and portraits, including a section on his MAO paintings, drawings and screenprints.

Warhol based his MAO works on a portrait done by Chinese artist Zhang Zhenshi. Zhenshi’s portrait was used for the frontispiece of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, known as The Little Red Book. A must-have for Chinese citizens during Mao’s rule, more than one billion copies of the Little Red Book were translated and distributed world-wide, making Zhenshi’s portrait of Mao the most widely reproduced artwork in the world.

MAO, 1972, available at VFA, was inspired by the news coverage Warhol read about then President Nixon’s trip to China in February 1972 to visit China. Nixon’s trip, during the Cold War, was the first visit by a sitting American president to the People’s Republic of China, which was considered an enemy nation.

Everybody’s always asking me if I’m a Communist because I’ve done Mao.”

ANDY WARHOL — FROM A TO B AND BACK AGAIN, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, runs through March 31.

Andy Warhol Fine Art Prints at VFA

Please contact us if you would like more information at MAO, Shoes or any of the other Fine Art Prints for sale at VFA.

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Roy Lichtenstein’s Continued Legacy

Last summer, the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation announced that it was going to shut down and give the remainder of its assets to museums. About 400 works were donated to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and thousands of documents were given to the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. The documents are being digitized to make them accessible to the public.

The latest Lichtenstein Foundation donation is a $5 million gift to the Smithsonian to create an endowment that would process and digitize material about artists whose works are historically underrepresented in the collections of American Museums, including African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and women.

Roy Lichtenstein and Comic Book Artists

Comic books became a major American industry with the publication of the Superman comic in 1938. Most of the artists whose work Roy Lichtenstein copied are no longer alive and he never met most of them, but he did meet Irv Novick, the artist who drew the original WHAAM! comic. The panel Novick drew was done for the January-February 1962 DC comic All-American Men of War #89.

Novick studied at National Academy of Design in New York. His career as a comic book artist lasted from 1939 until the 1990s.

According to an interview with Novick in Mike Richardson and Steve Duin’s book Comics: Between the Panels … Novick and Lichtenstein met while they were both serving in the military during World War ll:

He (Novick) had one curious encounter at camp. He dropped by the chief of staff’s quarters one night and found a young soldier sitting on a bunk, crying like a baby. “He said he was an artist,” Novick remembered, “and he had to do menial work, like cleaning up the officers’ quarters.

“It turned out to be Roy Lichtenstein. The work he showed me was rather poor and academic.” Feeling sorry for the kid, Novick got on the horn and got him a better job. “Later on, one of the first things he started copying was my work. He didn’t come into his own, doing things that were worthwhile, until he started doing things that were less academic than that. He was just making large copies of the cartoons I had drawn and painting them.”

Irv Novick died in 2004. Neither he, nor any of the other artists whose work Lichtenstein commandeered, received acknowledgment for their original work and the controversy over those omissions continues in the comic book world.

Roy Lichtenstein’s WHAAM! is in the permanent collection of the Tate Modern.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Point of View

British art critic, Alastair Sooke, sees Roy Lichtenstein’s work as more than just an appropriation of comic strips. “Lichtenstein took something tiny and ephemeral” Sooke said, “– a throwaway comic-strip panel that most people would overlook – and blew it up so that it was a substantial oil (and acrylic) painting more than 2m (6.5 ft) wide and 1.7m (5.5 ft) high. Here, he was saying, was a contemporary equivalent of a grand ‘history painting’, once considered the highest and most challenging branch of art. In the years after it was executed, people began to understand WHAAM! as a prophetic critique of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.”

Lichtenstein was not only influenced by comic book artists. His sense of style and composition was also influenced by Chinese artists, whose work he discovered in a book that he bought in France during the war. The Chinese influence can be seen in works like Nude from the Brushstroke Series, available at VFA.

Lichtenstein himself saw little distinction between artistic styles. “There is a relationship between cartooning and people like Miro and Picasso which may not be understood by the cartoonist,” he said, “but it definitely is related even in the early Disney.” Virtual Interior -Portrait of a Duck is a fine example of Lichtenstein’s style and composition.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Fine Art Prints at VFA

Please contact us if you would like more information about Nude from the Brushstroke Series, Virtual Interior -Portrait of a Duck or any of the other fine works for sale at VFA.

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Archives of American Art Announces Pivotal Gift from the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation. Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art. October 24, 2018.
Jack Cowart. Don’t Try This At Home (or Alone). The Brooklyn Rail. December 11, 2018.
Brian Cronan. How Comic Book Artists Handled Roy Lichtenstein Using Their Work. Comic Book Resources. September 18, 2018.
Mike Richardson and Steve Duin. Comics: Between the Panels. Darkhorse Books. 1998.

Donald Sultan Prints and Sculpture at VFA

Texture has always been an important part of Donald Sultan’s work. Tar, rubber and linoleum give his works texture and depth. Sultan became familiar with industrial materials when, as a boy, he hung out at his father’s tire shop in Asheville, North Carolina. When Sultan moved to New York in 1975, after receiving his MFA from the University of Chicago, he supported himself by doing construction during the day and painting at night.

As a struggling young artist, Sultan used tar, linoleum and other industrial materials, which were inexpensive and readily available to him on job sites.  The use of industrial materials gave his work a substance and feel that hadn’t been seen before in the art world. By the 1970s his work was receiving critical acclaim and he was able to work as an artist full time.

His series of Disaster Paintings, done between 1984 and 1990, were industrial landscapes of events taken from newspaper clippings. The use of tar, linoleum, rubber and plaster lent themselves to his paintings of man-made objects, and the disasters that can befall them. The square linoleum tiles, mounted on Masonite or wood, gave Sultan a grid to work with, and he began to make use of the grid for his early domino paintings.

As he began to paint more traditional fruits and flowers, he kept the grid and the tough materials, and the contrast between the industrial texture of his materials and the delicacy of his subjects gave his paintings extraordinary and unique qualities.

Donald Sultan Prints at VFA

When Donald Sultan began making prints, he worked with Parisian printmaker, Aldo Crommelynck, the same master printer Picasso worked with. More recently, Sultan has worked with Mixografia, whose specialty is fabricating textured and three-dimensional prints.

Japanese Pines, available at VFA, is one of the finest examples of the quality of work that Donald Sultan has produced with Mixografia. Sultan also uses enamel inks and flocking to create remarkable surfaces on his prints, like Lantern Flowers Red, also for sale at VFA.

He also incorporates diamond dust, another industrial material, into some of his prints, which, when combined with fine paper, creates a unique quality to his work. Blacks and Blues, for sale at VFA, is another superb example of Sultan’s sensibility.

Donald Sultan Sculptures at VFA

Going from textured surfaces to creating sculptures was a natural progression for Donald Sultan. He uses aluminum and Cor-Ten steel, a copper chromium alloy steel that has a high level of resistance to weathering. Sultan’s delicate flower sculptures, like Cor-Ten Poppies and White Tulips and Vase are further examples of his unique ability to combine industrial materials and fragile subject matter.

Donald Sultan’s Prints and Sculptures at VFA

Please contact us if you would like more information about Japanese Pines, Lantern Flowers, Cor-Ten Poppies, White Tulips and Vase, Blacks and Blues or any of the other fine works available at VFA.

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Calvin Tomkins. Object Lessons. The New Yorker. April 5, 1999.
Smithsonian American Art Museum. Donald Sultan: The Disaster Paintings. May 26, 2017.

Ellsworth Kelly at Christie’s

It took the New York art world a while to understand and embrace the simple and elegant style that  Ellsworth Kelly had cultivated during his six years in Paris in the 1950s.

Even when Kelly was a child, he saw the world in terms of its basic elements. He liked to tell the story of running around the neighborhood with his friends one Halloween night, when he saw forms through a window that he found intriguing. He left his friends to take a closer look at the abstract configuration. “I saw a red, shape, a blue shape, and a black shape,” he said, “I had to find out what it was.” He looked in the window and saw only furniture, curtains and the ordinary things that make up a room. As he slowly backed away, the shapes he had seen began to form again. He said that experience was, “very close to seeing my first abstraction.”

Kelly drew and painted things exactly the way he saw them, transforming the real into simple, abstract form and color.

Ellsworth Kelly at Christie’s

Ellsworth Kelly moved to New York in 1954. He lived at Coenties Slip, on the southeast tip of Manhattan, along with such great artists as Agnes Martin, James Rosenquist, Jack Youngerman and LOVE artist, Robert Indiana.

Kelly and Robert Indiana became close friends and, in 1957, Kelly gave Indiana a painting of an orange peel. The work, titled Orange Blue or Orange Peel, has an inscription on the back that reads, “EK 1957 FOR ROBERT AN ORANGE PEEL FROM PIER 7.”

Robert Indiana died this past May, at age 89. Indiana wanted his historic home on the Maine island of Vinalhaven to be turned into a museum, but the fate of the estate and its contents have been mired in legal disputes.

Indiana’s estate attorney has auctioned off some of Indiana’s personal collection, including Ellsworth Kelly’s Orange Peel.

The painting was auctioned at Christie’s New York a few weeks ago. Orange Peel was estimated to sell for $900,000 – $1,200,000. The price realized was $2,772,500 … more than double the estimated high.

Ellsworth Kelly Fine Art Prints at VFA

Like the simplicity of Orange Peel, Ellsworth Kelly’s uncomplicated style lent itself to his creating refined contour drawings of plants and flowers. In the 1960s, Kelly worked with Paris printers, Maeght Éditeur, to create the Suite of Twenty-Seven Lithographs. In 1964, he exhibited in Paris at Galerie Maeght, owned by Aimé and Marguerite Maeght, who printed many of Kelly’s plant series.

Leaves, available at Vertu Fine Art, was done as part of the Suite. Leaves and other works from the Suite of Twenty-Seven Lithographs can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Tate and many other major galleries and museums.

Please contact us if you would like more information about Leaves or any of the other fine artworks available at VFA.

See More Ellsworth Kelly Work for Sale

Mark Shanahan. Auction of paintings will help repair late artist Robert Indiana’s Maine home. Boston Globe. November 17, 2018.
Karen Wright. The Artist’s Studio: Ellsworth Kelly. Vanity Fair. July 17, 2012.
Elisa Wouk Almino. Ellsworth Kelly Explains His Relationship to Abstraction. Hyperallergic. September 2, 2016.

Tom Wesselman: In Perspective

A recent show of Tom Wesselmann’s work, at the Musee National de Monaco, looked at Wesselmann’s use of the female form. Wesselmann’s series of nudes, done as abstracts in the era of post-abstract expressionism and during the Pop era, was a radical innovation in the early 1960s, when he began his Great American Nude series. He reduced the female figure to its bare essentials…lips, breasts and pubic area…which was a departure from the post-Victorian images of the female form.

What Wesselmann said he was trying to do with his work was, “to make figurative art as exciting as abstract art.” He succeeded, not only as a figurative artist, but also as a Pop artist. His large, colorful female forms, with their isolated erogenous zones, were the equivalent of the billboard product ads used to entice consumers. Rather than objectifying women, Wesselmann used the female body as a construct for the abstract.

As a young man, Wesselmann was interested in becoming a cartoonist but, after being accepted to Cooper Union in 1956, he moved to New York and was inspired to draw and paint in a more classic style by the art he saw in museums and the artists he met in school and at galleries.

Wesselmann’s life also took an upturn in 1957, when he met fellow student Claire Selley, who became his model and wife. Claire Seated with Robe Half Off, available at Vertu Fine Art, is just one of the many works for which Claire was the model.  The couple was together, for more than forty years, until Wesselmann’s death, in 2004.

Tom Wesselmann’s Steel Works

The 1980s marked the beginning of a shift in focus for Wesselmann. He went from working on shaped canvas and collage to working in steel and aluminum. He created  both freestanding sculptures as well as sketches etched into flat metal surfaces. Wesselman etched his first works by hand until he got hold of an industrial laser. He also spent a year working with, and learning from, metalwork fabricator Alfred Lippincott. Wesselman developed a technique that allowed him to replicate his paintings in metal. He created both figurative and still life works, like Wildflower Bouquet, available at VFA.

Tom Wesselmann’s Homages

The art that Tom Wesselmann saw when he moved to New York changed his life. He often paid tribute to the artists whose work he admired, especially Matisse. One of Wesselmann’s most interesting works is his Still Life with Johns and Matisse, which he not only painted, but also turned into a sculpture. The Maquette for Still Life with Johns and Matisse, is available at VFA.

Tom Wesselman’s Works at VFA

Please contact us if you would like more information about the works of Tom Wesselmann for sale at VFA.

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Hermione Hoby. Great American Nudes artist Tom Wesselmann was no sexist, say the women in his life. The Guardian. January 19, 2016.
Free Ebook: How to Identify and Buy Fine Art Prints

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