Category Archives: Old vs. New

Robert Rauschenberg: Grand Rapids Art Museum

In 2007 I had the pleasure of publicizing a great series of works by Robert Rauschenberg called Currents. Created during the winter of 1970, he clipped disturbing and attention grabbing headlines from various national newspapers, arranging them in aesthetically pleasing and titillating fashion and translated them into photographic prints. Based on the social, political and financial turmoil of the times, he covered events through his clippings in a way that fed that the news in a palatable way, urging viewers to come in for a closer look.

The Grand Rapids Art Museum is currently showing and hosting a myriad of events surrounding the works of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. From now until May 20th, 2012, you can join in the conversation and see the pieces from his time at Gemini, a major print studio and collective in Los Angeles.

While he’s known for his prints and multiples, his most sought-after and profound works were his combines, objects joined and manipulated to be read in a totally new context altogether. Rauschenberg passed away a year after I installed his show at the gallery where I was. With his passing he leaves behind a legacy of process and collaboration that brought together great thinkers such as John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Cy Twombly and most notably Jasper Johns. I’m looking forward to seeing the exhibit. I hope you will too.

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It was all a dream.

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Getting out of Town: Powers of Ten

Thanks to our friend Chris at Johnsonese Brokerage, we were reminded recently that we hadn’t watched the 1968 documentary Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames. A simple yet exquisitely done film, written and directed by the couple, it explores the immediate expanse and how quickly our world as we know it can become very small.

For it’s time, the film was highly exploratory and brave. What do you think of the production? How well do you think they achieved the visual experience?


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The Process

Our ideas begin here.

They’re given life here.

The keepers are then digitized.

Lastly, they’re printed on high quality archival photo paper in rich, saturated colors and sent to you.

The end.


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Inspiration: Parisian Rococo | New Limited Edition Prints in the Shop

It’s hard for me to think up projects. I’m not like N; he can see and shoot all day, everyday. I’m just not like that. So when I was sitting around and the idea of Rococo came to me in a flash, I hopped on my computer and voila, four prints inspired by the 18th century French art, design and architecture movement were born. Of course, it has to have my stylized spin on it. They’re limited editions of 25 so once they’re gone, well…they’re gone! To buy one (pssstwe can even get it to you in time for Valentine’s Day) click here.

Que penses-tu?


Rococo Dreams Series | Edition of 25 | Archival inkjet print | Signed and numbered | 8″ x 8″ each

8 x8 frame suggestions: West Elm | Picture Frame Co.

Rococo 04 Golden

Rococo 03 Blush

Rococo 02 Navy

Rococo 01 Lavender

The digital illustrations for Rococo Dreams poster

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Taking Care of Art: Storage and Maintenance

I love watching Antiques Roadshow. Gleefully hopeful people bring in their family heirlooms, antiquing finds and favorite tchotchke in the hopes that they’ll be told it’s worth a ton more than they acquire it for. The part that kills me are when the appraiser says, “If it were in better condition, it would be worth about $30,000 but because it’s yellowed and there are creases in the corner of this weaving…” Then the person sheepishly admits that their grandmother’s piece has been, “sitting in the basement by the water pump for the last thirty years.” I shudder just thinking about it. Even if you’re not sure what it’s worth, there are a few simple steps to ensuring the life of your art and objects on the off chance that it is actually worth something.

MoMA conservation studio

Oil paintings

Works in oil are finicky. Whether they’re painted on canvas, wood, panel or even paper, there are a lot of things to look for with this highly effective and delicate medium. You can tell a work is done in oil if it has a sheen to the paint. (Acrylic can also give off a shiny reflection but oil is not as consistent as each color has it’s own properties). Now smell it. Oil has a tinny, warm odor that takes months, and sometimes years to dissipate. Paintings should be kept away from drafty areas and humid places in the home where the temperature fluctuates drastically, such as the foyer or mud room where a door opens frequently as this may cause the canvas or board to warp and the paint surface to crack. They should also be kept out of direct sunlight as it deteriorates the chemical make up of the paint.

Some oil paintings are done with a knife or have a lot of texture or impasto dust and debris can collect into crevices over time. Don’t ever attempt to clean this with a wet cloth, napkin, Windex or any other type of chemical cleaner — ever. Nix on the duster too, that’ll only make the situation worse and may cause bits of the paint to chip off. This goes for all mediums of art including works under glass. I’ll get to that later. An oil painting, if it means something to you, should be cleaned by a professional conservator. Locally, you can contact Celina Berenfeld at the Art Conservation Laboratory of Michigan, a trained and licensed conservator in all types of art.

Acrylic paintings

Because acrylic paint dries into a water-based plastic, more resilient and pliable than oil, it’s slightly more forgiving than its oil-based counterpart. That said, temperature and humidity can also play a part on warping the canvas or board and will contribute to deterioration of paint over time, albeit a bit more slowly. Like oil paintings, if you notice that over time, the color has dulled, or if you have a smoker in the house, it’s very likely that a layer of dirt has accumulated on the surface. The only way to treat this is to have it professionally cleaned. Please, do not attempt to clean it yourself!

Works on Paper

Some of my clients’ most favored pieces have been in the powder room. I can’t tell you the number of times, I’ve perched over a commode to peer at a print or watercolor. Bathrooms make precious little nooks for pieces that, shall we say, require a lot of attention or put the “sitter” at ease. For a 1/2 bath (just a toilet and sink), hanging art is fine. Even if it’s under glass, there’s little chance of splashing water on to the surface. The larger issue is a work framed under glass in an area of the home where humidity fluctuates or there’s enough steam that condensation could collect underneath the glass.

If your piece was hermetically sealed by a professional framer, there’s a good chance that your piece is not safe to hang in a full bathroom (where you shower/bathe). Even if you don’t see water droplets collecting under the glass, over time, microscopic amounts of water reach the paper and it begins to react to the moisture by growing tiny dots of mold. When you see yellow or green dots around the edge of paper over time, this is called foxing and it can only be chemically stabilized by a professional.


Unless there are really no other options, storing art in the basement is a bad idea. No matter where you store your work, remember to package it in case of flood or a leak. For canvases and pieces framed under glass, I suggest cutting a piece of corrugated cardboard to size and placing it on the face of the work. The exception is if the piece has heavy paint and the cardboard may leave an imprint or chip it. Then, with a large plastic sheet (garbage bags work great), wrap the piece with the cardboard snugly, tucking all sides in. Tape it securely and place it upright on a surface that’s high enough off the ground that it’ll stay dry.

Storing large works is a bit trickier. If you have access to them, paletts can be purchased inexpensively and some times are given away by lumber yards. (This is a must to place on the ground if you have to store in the basement, giving you a few inches of safety net in case of flooding). For storing large canvases, stand them straight up, not stacked on top of each other. Leaning a painting up against a wall at an angle may cause the wood to warp and the painting to become cockeyed. Make sure that all corners touch the wall surface they’re being stored against. If you don’t have plastic sheeting large enough to cover the canvases, use cotton bedsheets. Face the first two paintings to each other with a sheet in between. Place the next painting back side to back side. Now with that painting facing out, put a sheet in between and place the next painting face side in, repeat.

These are just tips to get you started. Every piece has its own set of needs and maintenance issues and some (like posters and reproductions) are simply there to look pretty and make you happy! Hang up what you enjoy and the rest will fall into place. Let me know if you have questions and happy art shopping!


Images: MoMA conservation studio via Art21 | Apartment Therapy | ULINE wood palett

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Take a picture, it lasts longer.

Two nights ago it was incredibly hazy outside. I noticed, as I’m sure everyone else did, just how amazing the night lights looked.The mixture of different color temperatures combined with the reflective moisture in the air gave way to some incredible scenes.


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In Your Face: The Performance Art of Joseph Ravens and dfbrl8r

As I sit here and stare outside at the first real snow of the winter season, I’m reminded of last year’s blizzard. N and I were living in Chicago and witnessed the Blizzard of 2011, which dumped over 20 inches of snow on the city. It left us few options but tunneling through mounds where the sidewalk used to be and throwing impromptu snowballs during our daily walks. This was also about the time our friend and performance artist Joseph Ravens opened dfbrl8r Performance Art Gallery a few doors down from our building. Joseph is well known around Chicago and has had his fair share of controversy and notoriety. His style is one of spontaneous reaction, comedic timing and conceptual play. He transformed a once-failing antiques store into a thriving space of collaborative performance with endless themes and ideas.


Dad poses with an angry bird

The inaugural event was fantastic. There were two feathered artists in the front window, flapping their wings and pecking at passerbyers. (My dad came with us and taunted the birds to no end). Then there was the woman who kept having her coat trimmed by the men in lab coats. But the finale really set things off, including firecrackers, a gun (filled with blanks, of course) and garbage pails of snow being hurled at the audience. It turned into quite a smoky snowball fight of sorts –  a memorable evening and a great start for dfbrl8r.

Joseph Ravens does his thang

I was offered chew by the guy. I declined.

Have you ever seen performance art? What do you know about it? During college, I took a 4-D class. Yes, 4 dimensional meaning time-based. That includes performance, video, film, really anything that has the element of spatial time. Maybe you’ve never thought of it that way. Explore dfbrl8r events when you’re in Chicago next time and you may be surprised…for many reasons.

Happy Anniversary, Joseph and dfbrl8r! Congrats!!

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(L)earned Appreciation.

Art history was a subject that I hated in school. It was required, however, and by some divine intervention I passed my classes. The thing that school can’t teach is appreciation.

The image above is from my project, The ______ War. I created realistic war scenes with toy soldiers, utilizing lens tricks to blur the line between fantasy and reality. My statement was that war themed toys are given to children to make war acceptable later on in life.

The picture above was taken by Eddie Adams and captures General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon. This is one of the most important photographs in the history of photography. Not only did it prove how powerful photography is, but it continues to be the centerpiece for the argument regarding involvement and boundaries for photographers.

Whether I liked it or not, these historical photographs were burned into my memory. Photographers like  Robert Capa and W. Eugene Smith laid the foundation.

The two above are Capa’s while the one below is mine.

And then there’s David Levinthal, who’s been photographing toys since the 70’s.

Suddenly, art history isn’t so bad. In fact, without it I’d have no point of reference. The more I know and understand, the richer my work becomes.

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