Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Billboard that Wasn't

Recently I submitted the above mock-up for a pair of art billboards. It may not come as a surprise to some that they were not selected for inclusion. And as much as I would have preferred that they were included, up front, I realized it was a long shot that they might not be seen in a favorable light by a review committee composed, in part, of business interests. Regardless, I felt it was important in a program about art, more specifically one using billboards as an art framing device, that the proposed work should do just that: acknowledge that the medium is a billboard and given that, how can proposed work be framed within the history of outdoor advertising and how can I, as an artist, respond to such constraints in a meaningful way.

Those interested in learning more about the history of outdoor advertising can consult this industry view which contains a keynote speech by the current director, Nancy Hartman, at the Duke Harman Center.  Duke also maintains a large library of digital images that are worth a view.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Tools for toupees!

Wherein we assess the state of haircuts.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Large-scale Community History Murals

Panoramic view of a portion of the Spirit of Argentine mural.
Another type of mural found in the Kansas City region is the large-scale community history mural. Due to their scale—they may span an entire city block—they are difficult and expensive to produce. The most expansive of these is the Spirit of Argentine mural. Executed in the summer of 1998 by the Guild of Latino Arts, the mural traces the history of the Argentine district of Kansas City, KS from indigenous peoples to the present. In the process, the mural does not shy away from earlier troubled times: such as wars, destructive floods, and Jim Crow segregation. The idea is to showcase the enduring spirit of the area despite these periods as well as to celebrate the triumphs of the community. The mural can be seen on Metropolitan Avenue, between 30th and 32nd Street.
Panoramic view of a portion of the Spirit of Argentine mural.

The Argentine mural was produced under the direction of Jesus Ortiz and includes the work of muralists: Alicia Gambino, Jose Faus, Martha Vivanco, Virginia Delgado, Tadeo Franco, and Ardis Peterson.

The 18th and Vine mural on the edge of the Kansas City Downtown loop spans a block between Main and Walnut. The mural celebrates the rich history of jazz that once enveloped the area.  Sadly, much of that has given way to more corporate forms of entertainment such as is often formulated in the Power and Light District.
Even more disappointing is that recent development in the Power and Light District has covered up the second portion of that mural which spanned a block to the east (Walnut to Oak). The mural depicted the history of Kansas City Monarch and Negro League baseball in the city. Although visitors can still sample this rich heritage at the Negro League Hall of Fame a few blocks to the east, it's sad to see this landmark get covered by gentrification.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Troost Avenue Murals of Alexander Austin

Alexander Austin mural, The King, 3217 Troost Ave., Kansas City, MO
Immediately after your mural viewing trip along Avienda Cesar E. Chavez you should head directly to Troost Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri to see the work of Alexander Austin.  A couple of things set Austin's work apart. His murals are rendered in black and white. And they feature large scale iconic portraiture.
In The King, images of Dr. ML King, Jr in both oratory and reflection flank both the left and right sides of the murals.  Also featured on the mural is a young Michael Jackson, the King of Pop. The muralist Austin can be seen kneeling in deference the King's legacy.
Alexander Austin mural, Manheim Grandmothers, St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, 3922 Troost Ave., KCMO

A few blocks south, at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, lies a mural like none other in the region. It's depicts four grandmothers: Lucille Leaphart, Orisa Kelly-Hogan, Avern Hughes, and Dorothy Hawkins (left to right) of the Manheim Neighborhood.  In the center lies an image of St. Vincent de Paul. By placing these women, stalwarts of the neighborhood on each side of de Paul, Austin elevates them to saintly status and gives them their due respect.
Alexander Austin mural, 31st & Troost, Pergola Park/Osage Trail Station. Color mural on right added later by different muralist.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Avienda Cesar E. Chavez

If you want to see murals in Kansas City perhaps the first place to visit is Avienda Cesar E. Chavez. Across the street from the Guadelupe Center, a mural dedicated to the avenues namesake, wraps around a staircase. Brightly colored and finely detailed, it beckons one to ascend the steps into Gage Park which lies beyond and find a new world.

But go west, young man. Go West. At the western-most end of the avenue lies a block of murals  dedicated to Meso-American cultures. Created in 1985, the murals—despite some fading and chipping—are still rich reminders of these cultures as well as the culture of great community art and mural making that still thrives in Kansas City, Kansas.  The murals were created by a group of artists led by Lee Ann Perez, Javier Perez, and Clemente Raya Sr.
Mayan Warrior, Bonampak, 800 AD

The Life of the Mixtec King Eight Deer Tiger Claw

Aztec Glory

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Obama Gets a New Style

Folks had a great time during the opening session of Cut Your Hair in the Socialist Style creating a new look for the President for the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress. Can you tell which of these is a Disconnected Undercut?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Nonsense, Campaign Posters, and Propaganda

If your interested in the art of the political poster, then Presidential campaigns are good places to look since at least 80 percent of their effort is pure propaganda. Ten percent is utter nonsense. The rest, perhaps a smattering of truth.

People tend to forget that Eldridge Cleaver, the Minister of Information for the Black Panthers, also ran for President. On the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. He didn't fare that well; he wasn't even 35 at the time of the election. The constitution is rather vague on when you need to come of age in order to be President. While campaigning? before the swearing-in ceremony?; at any point during the 4 year term? Only the all-seeing Founding Fathers knew.

You can see a poster from the Cleaver run, along with a number of other posters from US Presidential campaigns at the Kansas City, Missouri Central Library through October 2nd. Some of my favorites are a Ben Shahn silkscreen with a less-than flattering Barry Goldwater caricature, a 1972 Nixon (re-election) where he co-opted (read stole) some of R. Crumb's characters (a portend of things to come?). And a Wendell Willkie 3-color silkscreen from his unsuccessful 1940 bid for the Oval Office.