Russell Young’s WEST taps into our most primal instincts and our most grandiose dreams. Living and painting on what Young calls the “edge of America,” this large body of work looks upon wide open vistas that expand our understanding of freedom, danger, and possibility.
The journey towards these vistas begins in the anamorphic widescreens of Western films that Young watched growing up in Northern England. These fantasies eventually led him to America, where he has roamed ever since, unafraid to embody a land full of contradictions.
In WEST, Young both venerates and pulls apart “Wild West’’ mythology to reveal the many prisms that underscore the particularly American need for reinvention even when it sacrifices truth. Young makes no such sacrifice; instead he holds all the things we choose to love and choose to erase in equal measure.
The series features imagery, references, and obsessions of Young’s own world built within the larger framework of the American drama. The spaghetti westerns he watched in his youth, NASCAR racers before they were safely regulated, 70s big wave Hawaiian surf photography, California girls, Hells Angels, nickel plated revolvers, bison, rodeos, the Marlboro Cowboy before he was commercialized into oblivion, Native American chiefs before they, too, were almost driven into oblivion—they all debut in Young’s quest to confront and interrogate the idealization of the American Southwest.
The breadth of this ever-expanding body of work is matched only by Young’s impulse to venture into the deserts and forests and oceans of America, to go as far west as possible.
“I am rain, horses, whiskey,
murder, chaos, terror, gasoline,
lust, heartbreak, damnation, love,
Hollywood, lost, paranoia, horror,
violence, redemption, rattlesnakes,
sage, desert, raven, rolling thunder,
Hells Angel, cowboys, girls,
rustlers, riot, cold wind,
the Pacific and dust and death and God.
West.” -Russell Young
Survival practices developed during pandemic are possibly here to stay
March 31, 2021
Art Angels, Micah Johnson Billboard, ‘Black Sheep’ by Micah Johnson, Billboard on La Cienega Dec 2020- Jan 2021. (Photo: Art Angels).
The social and emotional value of art and culture has become all the more apparent this past pandemic year. To keep their doors from shutting permanently and their exhibitions active while providing a space for artists and audiences, many independent art galleries in Los Angeles have embraced technology, tapped into their visitor base, social media outlets, and turned up creativity. As the world creeps toward cautious re-opening, these new practices are being integrated into the “new normal.”
One of the initial moves galleries made was taking advantage of their social media. Instagram was the first place Art Angels in West Hollywood, which specializes in contemporary and provocative art, and Eastern Projects in Chinatown, which calls itself “a love letter to LA,” turned to connect with their viewers. Eastern Projects provided walking tours of the gallery on Instagram Live, showcasing the work and answering viewers’ questions; Art Angels enhanced what they were doing already on the platform by involving their artists.
“We had our artists show what they were working on by sharing images of pieces in their studios,” says Art Angels’ co-founder, Kat Emery. “We started adding installation shots and ‘the making of’ work-in-progress videos from artists.”
The new contemporary art space Corey Helford Gallery in DTLA hosted their virtual openings on Instagram Live. The gallery’s curator Caro Buermann and its director, Sherri J. Trahan, teamed up for these events — Buermann conducts the virtual tours while Trahan responds to viewers online. Also on hand are the artists who share insights and take questions. In addition to photo albums of each exhibition available on the gallery’s Facebook page following the opening, the work-in-progress images and pre-and post-opening videos have always been provided.
“We reached out to some of the talented photographers we’ve worked with to help us develop self-guided virtual tours for our exhibitions,” says Trahan, citing Birdman and Eric Minh Swenson as two of the photographers and videographers who have been involved in creating dynamic and interactive tours of Corey Helford.
Art Angels Gallery, ‘A Battle Won’ exhibition installation and an exterior mural by PUNKMETENDER, Exterior View. (Photo: Art Angels).
Art Angels has also reimagined their shows in a virtual space. “We re-curated the gallery for a virtual show,” says the gallery’s other co-founder Jacquelin Napal. “A camera was placed in each part of the gallery. It does a 3-D spin to capture everything in the space. When we post the video on our website, it provides a collector with a virtual walk-through of the space and allows to move in closer to the paintings, plus stop and start views at their own pace using their cursor on the screen.”
Another purveyor of the new contemporary art movement, Thinkspace Projects, relocated from Culver City to a much bigger building in West Adams mid-pandemic.
Thinkspace Projects: EPOS by Roby Dwi Antono in Gallery I, Certain Scars Can’t Be Seen by Edith Lebeau in Gallery II, Installation View. (Photo: Birdman).
“We have already been providing our entire inventory online, have an active webshop, digital previews for all our exhibitions, and video recaps of the opening receptions for some years,” says the gallery’s curator and co-owner, Andrew Hosner. “When the pandemic hit, we pivoted to making them more about the works. We had artists send in voiceovers and put together video tours of the shows for our vast social network. The one new thing we added was the virtual self-guided tour aspect. Our patrons the world over have been loving to have the chance to walk through the space and look at the works at their own pace.”
As routine visits with artists weren’t an option anymore for Thinkspace, the artists brought their studio to the gallery via video. “They sent tons of footage of themselves painting, their studio and supplies, their daily trip to their studio, their pets, and an audio track, all recorded and shot on their iPhones. Our A/V guy works his editing magic, and we’ve got a nice clip we can share all over our socials.”
Eastern Projects was prepped for the opening reception of Frank Romero’s Coquelicots when the city mandated that public places should only allow 45 persons or less. Within days of the opening, the first lockdown happened. According to the gallery owner Rigo Jimenez, Romero sold 80% of the show, even though the entire exhibition went online and the in-person viewing was eventually reduced to three people at a time. ” Quite a feat, considering it was the start of the shutdown and attendance was significantly impacted.”
Art Angels’ exhibition A Battle Won with PUNKMETENDER’s signature butterflies was set to open the first week of the lockdown. In addition to 3D online viewing, the gallery took advantage of its transparent glass walls that allow art to be seen from the street and even from passing cars, extended the physical show to the outside with a 100-foot mural wrapped around the building. “We chose PUNKMETENDER because butterflies are a powerful symbol of hope and transformation in a period of challenging and uncertain times,” says Emery. “He certainly delivered on this mural, bringing the life of the gallery to the streets in this time of closure.”
Corey Helford Gallery Dosshaus, Installation view of POP GOES, DOSSHAUS, Corey Helford Gallery May 30 – July 3, 2020. (Photo: Angela Izzo).
Art Angels took advantage of their positioning to deliver “drive-by art” to the community. They partnered with digital media company Standardvision to bring two of Micah Johnson’s works, “sä-v(ə-)rən-tē” (pronounced sovereignty) and a piece from his Black Sheep collection to massive, traffic-stopping billboards.
The limited in-person visits that have taken place through the pandemic have been by appointment. John Valadez’s timely Pinturas Pandemia saw 10 visitors at a time with 30-minute intervals at Eastern Projects. Art Angels provided rapid Covid-19 testing onsite for its Russell Young Heroes and Heroines exhibition. This allowed for a six-hour reception and by-appointment viewing with the artist present, making for an exclusive, one-on-one experience.
“We plan to continue building on such experiences, incorporating full immersion both inside and outside of the gallery and throughout the city, with larger-than-life installations,” says Emery. “We’ve been extremely specific about the shows we’ve done during this time. If anything, the pandemic has pushed us to be two steps ahead and innovate creatively with our platforms, especially with how we bring our works to collectors. It’s all progress and positive. We will continue to incorporate the changes as standard practice.”
“The pandemic has helped us grow on an international level,” says Hosner. “We’ve hosted many sold-out shows, and most shows have been averaging more people seeing them in the virtual realm than have ever seen them in the physical world in the past. Between tour video, studio tours, going live on Instagram, and so forth, we’re averaging around 10,000 views per exhibition. It’s pretty wild.”
Cover story, via SuperYacht Digest
Cécile Plaisance turns the tables and breaks stereotypes, codes and roles using Barbie not as an object but rather as the incarnation of free, seductive and empowered women.
Barbies are part of every girl’s life. Some put them in the loft and forget about them, some others pass them to their daughters and Cécile Plaisance creates art with them. Feminists have always accused Barbie to promote the objectification of the female body, a perfect and inaccessible body, the idea of a submitted woman and consumerism. She turns the table an breaks stereotypes, codes and roles using Barbie not as an object but rather as the incarnation of free seductive and empowered women.
Born in 1968 in Paris, Cécile Plaisance is a French photographer, mostly active in Brussels. For many years she did not get the opportunity to develop her love for photography. She graduated in Economics and Commerce with at DEA Diploma for Paris Dauphine University. For over 10 years she works in the European financial markets, but photography was always in the back of her mind and her camera followed her everywhere. She also worked in the IT sector with her husband but after moving to Brussels she left the masculine environment of finance to eventually follow here passion for photography. She studied at Contraste Photography Agency and she took Photoshop classes which soon became a fundamental tool for her creations. At the end of the third year the school organized an exposition with its students’ photos and that is where Barbie dolls made their first appearance to Cécile’s works. She wanted to give homage to Helmut Newton but at that time she didn’t have enough money to pay for real-life models, so she turned to her daughter’s barbie collection. Plaisance mentions Newton as one of the greatest photographers whose woks have inspired her, along with Barbara Kruger, Richard Avedon, Mel Ramos and Russel James.
Through her work, she pursues a strong message, yet ludic. Her art is not a war of the sexes, it is an ode to femininity and to all women. She is not against men, at all, in fact she things we should find a proper balance between men and women. In her photographs, Plaisance elevates the idea off every girl’s childhood to a superior cause: she defends women’s rights, desires and freedom. She links Barbie to the women of today, playing with her femininity, managing everyday-life tasks, becoming a perfect housewife of boss lady. In some photographs from her Lens series, Plaisance transforms the magazine read by women looking for the perfect outfit into the perfect outfit itself.
Cécile Plaisance is well-known for her comic, surreal and provoking photos of Mattel’s iconic doll. She superimposes difference pictures of Barbie getting dressed-undressed which change according to the position of the viewer. With her Barbie series, the artist does not only want to take us back to our childhood, but she also links the iconic doll to the empowered woman of today in different settings, actions and cultures.
Her works are featured in several exhibitions, fairs, galleries and museums, including LA Art Angels gallery, Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art in Saint Petersburg, Art Miami, Art Cologne, Art Toronto, Scope Miami and Art Basel, Hong Jong. Her photographs can also be found in prestigious art collections, both private and corporative. The Handler family, founders of Mattel, of course had to have one of her creations, but also the King of Morocco, Victor Emmanuel of Savoy, Joe Malone CEO of her eponymous brand and the Ecclestone Family among others.
In 2016 her Nun & Baby was auctioned at Christies’s Paris for of $14,100. In 2018 PHOTO Magazine awarded her with the “Prix Photo” and put her work on cover.
French photographer has great respect for all religions, but none of them should promote physical and moral disrespectful behavior, dictated by some form of patriarchy. To her “there is no religion that can justify flouting women’s rights. Women should be equal to men and should be free to do whatever they want with their image and their bodies.” She uses her art to encourage women to take their freedom back, no matter where they live or what their religion may be. In her photographs, the nun’s cloak or the burqa hide a sexy and provocative woman. She explores the different roles that women play both publicly and privately and every action they take should be their exclusive decision. Despite the differences in cultures, clothes and fashion, al women around the world aspire to be free and to live fully and intensely in their lives.
In her series “La Bella Vita” her dolls are photographed on yachts, at sea, while sunbathing and having fun in the summer weather. They are so perfectly integrated with the environment that the line between fantasy and reality is blurred. The viewer questions whether the dolls are playing the role of a real-life model, or the model is playing the role of the glamorous dolls. Barbies appear to be alive and posing.
A single image was not enough for Plaisance to deliver the complex idea and nature of a multifaceted woman, so she superimposes two different images, with the same subject but in different poses or clothes, that appear to transform into each other. Barbie seems to undress depending on the viewer’s position in front of the photograph. Plaisance started using holograms, or lenticular lens, in 2010, becoming her predominant form of art ever since, to better explore the various aspects of a woman: how she sees herself, vs how others see her, the public persona she shows and the more private, intimate and secret one she keeps to herself. By using this technique, the French photographer animates a static image, making it dynamic and surprising to viewers that do not expect the photograph to change or move as the image is viewed from different angles.
Plaisance is one of the few artist in the world to dare to use the so-called lenticular printing. Lenticular printing was firstly used in marketing to promote and advertise products and now has become part of the world of fine art. It gives artist an incredible opportunity to explore depth and interact with the viewer. Even Pop Art artist Roy Lichtenstein, one of Plaisance’s source of inspiration, employed the lenticular printing technique.
Plaisance claims that lenticular printing could be very time consuming, hard and extremely expensive. She also adds that the whole process could be quite stressing because the results are not always perfect. Also, there are only 3 labs that produce these lenses in the world: in the US, in China and Ireland. That is why this technique is only for the most daring, and Cécile Plaisance definitely is one of them.
In 2016 she turned to real-life models after five years of working with Barbies. Plaisance explained she was strolling through Instagram and saw some photos of Olga Kent. Their collaboration started to culminate this year with a project dedicated to animal conservation and environmental issues: in the black and white “Planet Earth” series, Plaisance uses the photomontage technique, superimposing endangered habitats and animals. A very important subject for future generations, with the woman always at the centre, perfect to deliver strong messages.
During quarantine this year, Plaisance shot a new series called Bubble Gum, the protagonist, Barbie of course, is blowing a big bubble gum while wearing a pair of wide sunglasses.
Q&A WITH ARTIST CÉCILE PLAISANCE
SD: “Your works are not just any regular photos, where you take a picture, you Photoshop it and then you print it out. It is rather a long and time-consuming job, where there result is not always perfect at just, How long does it take you to create one work, start to finish, using the lenticular approach?
CP: “I have used the lenticular technique for ten years now and I have found that it allows me to deliver a stronger message. The shooting is already very complex as the model must not move from one pose (dressed) to another (undressed). Then the work consists of superposing the 2 images so that some parts are not moving, for example the face, the eyes. It takes me between 20 to 50 hours to finish an artwork. But I love the result. So to make a complete series takes some time, several months. The production time is also very consuming. There are very few labels that are able to produce lenticular prints and even less manufacturers of lenticular sheets. At present, there are only 2 left in the world. I need to control every production as the sheets are no originally meant for art.
My latest series about the protection of the species, is not lenticular. It is printed on Ultrasmooth Hahnemühle paper, but I am using the same technique as I am superimposing a few images: the model, the specie, the climate change or the environmental issue… and the frame.”
SD: “You started your career photographing Barbie dolls, plastic and static objects. Later to turned to real life models, made of flesh and bones that move. What is the reason behind this choice and what is your preference?”
CP: “It was a natural move. After having shot Barbies for half of a decade, I wanted some change.. It happens that the beautiful Olga Kent (also on the picture of your cover) contacted me via Instagram. We decided to work together and we still are. She is so natural and so beautiful. Everything is easy with her. I can say that I truly enjoy shooting with real models. Each time I have a great connection with them. They come to my studio that is part of my place and we share some time together. Every series I do, I build it with them. They have to agree to every step. And of course the final image. I can say that my Barbies helped me very much and cam back during confinement, but I have much more pleasure working with humans.”
SD: “Behind all your works there is a clear message, whether it is the defense of women’s rights, stereotypes and injustice or climate change and environmental issues. Do you think good art should always have social implications?”
CP: “I think that it is my responsibility to do so. I can’t stay inactive. I am aware that it is a very small drop in the sea (French quote), but I try to help some causes. I am not sure though that it makes a good art. But it definitely makes a difference.
Q&A WITH ART GALLEY, ART ANGELS
SD: “Very few artists in the world use the lenticular approach, and Cécile is one of them, making her work one of a kind, unique and unexpected. What is the public general reaction to Cécile’s works?”
AA: ‘Cécile’s pieces effortlessly make a statement that captures the attention of all of our collectors. Completely unexpected at first glance, she has become one of the most sought after artists at the gallery given the uniqueness of her works.”
SD: “Why did you choose to exhibit Cécile’s works? Do you share her values?”
AA: “We choose to exhibit Cécile as we strongly admired her as a female artist and the uniqueness of her artwork that continues to push boundaries and provoke thought.”
SD: “What do Cécile’s works have in common with the others exhibited at your gallery?”
AA: “Cécile’s works like this by all of artists breathe life, diversity, humor and uniqueness into each of our collectors homes. It is a pleasure to continuously hear how much joy works like Cécile’s continue to bring to our collectors when their pieces enter into their collections.”
Behold The One—a record-breaking Los Angeles estate with 105,000 square feet of living space and, it seems, a nearly $350 million price tag
After nearly a decade of design and development work, what is being billed as “the world’s most expensive home” is finally ready for its close-up. Set on a five-acre parcel in the posh Los Angeles enclave of Bel Air—and aptly named The One—the 105,000-square-foot property’s interiors have remained a closely guarded secret. Until now. AD has been an exclusive look at what’s inside this record-setting property—and the design and aesthetic minds that made it happen.
The home’s guesthouse includes an Oto Murano chandelier by Vistosi along with parquet flooring.
Surrounded on three sides by a moat and a 400-foot-long jogging track, the estate appears to float above the city. Completed over eight years—and requiring 600 workers to build—the home was designed by architect Paul McClean and interior designer Kathryn Rotondi, who were enlisted by owner and developer Nile Niami to help it live up to its reported $340 million price tag.
“This project felt exciting and simultaneously intimidating,” says McClean. But the home’s impressive site and his long-standing relationship with Niami persuaded McClean to not just take on the project but “create something unique and spectacular.”
And McClean certainly has delivered.
A rotating white sculpture titled Unity by Mike Fields anchors the home’s foyer, which also features a custom white glass Murano chandelier.
With its 26-foot-high ceilings, the home’s main entrance leads to an array of gathering areas with panoramic 360-degree views of the Pacific Ocean, downtown Los Angeles, and the San Gabriel Mountains. The entry area is filled with water, along with a sculpture and bridge. “Water is something we often use in our design process because it allows for a sensory change that helps you adjust to your surroundings,” says McClean.
The use of black, white, and gray throughout the home was based on Niami’s desire to have a neutral palette that would allow the landscape and panoramas to shine.
Drawing inspiration from the surrounding environment and history of Los Angeles modernism, McClean has connected the home’s inside with outside “to provide that quintessential L.A. living but on a bigger scale,” he describes. “To allow the home to feel livable, we separated the entertainment spaces from the living areas. [The former] are located at the lower level [and] this creates a plinth for the rest of the house to sit on and reduces [its] apparent mass.”
Beyond the eye-catching design are the home’s equally jaw-dropping stats. There are 42 bathrooms, 21 bedrooms, a 5,500-square-foot master suite, a 30-car garage gallery with two car-display turntables, a four-lane bowling alley, a spa level, a 30-seat movie theater, a “philanthropy wing (with a capacity of 200) for charity galas with floating pods overlooking Los Angeles, a 10,000-square-foot sky deck, and five swimming pools.
Along with Niami, Rotondi, founder of KFR Design, worked on the interior design to shape distinctive spaces that flow into one another despite the grandness of the house. “I was really drawn to ‘wow factor’ elements in the hospitality sector” for inspiration, says Rotondi, who looked to top luxury hotel brands such as Aman, Bulgari and Baccarat. Meanwhile, the home’s color palette, soft textures, and lighting are an ode to the Tom Ford boutique on Rodeo Drive, a favorite of Niami and McClean.
Thanks to a collaboration between Creative Art Partners and Art Angels, the property features an impressive collection of art, including a butterfly installation by Stephen Wilson on the lower level and a Niclas Castello custom panel in black and silver in the office. There is also a sizable collection of bespoke furniture pieces from byShowroom.
Due to recently approved city ordinances, a house of this magnitude will never again be built in Los Angeles, which means The One will truly remain one of a kind. “This project has been such a long and educational journey for us all,” McClean notes. “It was approached with excitement and was thrilling to create, but I don’t think any of us realized just how much effort and time it would take to complete the project.”
Now it’s time to find the perfect buyer for it. Branden and Rayni Williams of The Beverly Hills Estates, along with Compass’s Aaron Kirman, will have the listing.
PUBLISHED: December 17, 2020 at 3:07 p.m. | UPDATED: December 17, 2020 at 3:09 p.m.
A massive art installation faces outward from the Marriott hotel complex across the street from L.A. Live. The digital canvas depicts three figures standing in an open field. An astronaut is facing to the right. Two boys are facing to the left. They’re separated by a white door. The visible layer is compelling; the layers underneath are mind-blowing.
The two boys depicted are real people, a 7-year-old named Rayden and his 8-year-old brother, Jacque. The artist, Micah Johnson, knows them through a friend. When Johnson met Rayden for the first time, he said the boy told him, “I’m not smart enough to be an astronaut.”
That gave Johnson an idea, not just for the image you see on the corner of West Olympic Blvd. and Francisco Street, but to create an interactive, multilayered exhibit. For the next 11 years on each child’s birthday, the viewer of the piece can donate Bitcoin to a digital wallet that will be given to each child upon his 18th birthday.
The billboard image changes based on the time of day. The images of the boys will be updated on their birthdays. Only the image of the astronaut is static. The layer showing the Bitcoin wallet only emerges on the boys’ respective birthdays (Rayden on Aug. 10, Jacque on Nov. 6). To call this “art” diminishes its impact. The piece – titled ‘sä-v(ə-)rən-tē (and pronounced “sovereignty”) – will give and receive beyond its run in downtown Los Angeles, which ends on Jan. 10.
Johnson knows a thing or two about emerging layers. Four years ago he played seven games with the Dodgers. In his final at-bat, on Sept. 29, 2016, he pinch-hit for Yasiel Puig, singled, and scored an inconsequential insurance run in a 9-4 victory over the Padres.
“I’ve made more of an impact in L.A. post-career than I did while I was there,” said Johnson, who turns 30 on Friday. “It’s pretty cool, though.”
The Dodgers traded Johnson to Atlanta in January of 2017, and he played another 18 games for the Braves. He batted .316 in spring training with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018 but was demoted to Triple-A before the season began. Johnson never appeared in another major league game.
Frustrated by what he felt was an inability to control his own destiny, Johnson retired after the 2018 season, his seventh in professional baseball. He didn’t wrestle with the decision for long.
“I was just like, ‘you know what, this is dumb,’” he said.
The seeds for Johnson’s second career were already poking above the soil. After the 2015 baseball season ended, he went on a date with his girlfriend that involved drinking wine and painting. That was his only “lesson” in art before he reported to spring training with the Dodgers in Arizona.
As is tradition, Manager Dave Roberts assigned his spring training campers a task to display their talents. Johnson chose to paint. Roberts assigned him a subject: longtime coach Maury Wills, who was in camp with the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch.
“No lightbulbs went off,” Johnson said. “Until some people give you that validation, I didn’t think I was good. A lot of my teammates said, ‘that was good.’ It was trash but I didn’t know any better. I said ‘this is what I’m going to do.’ I really enjoyed it. At the time it was more of a challenge to myself. I always want to get better at something, whatever it is I’m doing.”
Johnson continued to nurture his talent during his downtime. He spent most of the 2016 season at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Through a teammate, Joc Pederson, Johnson was able to connect with Irvine-based art duo Shelby and Sandy. They helped catalyze Johnson’s introduction to the art world. In October of 2017, he displayed his first collection at a gallery in Atlanta.
The fraternity of baseball players-turned-artists is small. Free agent outfielder Matt Szczur is one. Three years after outfielder-turned-guitarist Bernie Williams retired from the Yankees, one of his albums was nominated for a Latin Grammy. Another guitarist, Tim Flannery, played 11 major league seasons, coached for 18 more, and lists 13 albums on his discography.
Johnson said the grind of a baseball season helped train him for his second profession. A typical day at his New Hampshire studio consists of 10-12 hours of work, not unlike a day at the ballpark. Johnson said he routinely discards a canvas if he doesn’t like what he sees, turning art into an activity of failure akin to hitting baseballs for a living.
“I just work at a level that’s really, really exhausting,” he said. “I knew the recipe to get to the big leagues, and I knew that could translate to anything else. You have to work nonstop. I’ve had the recipe. With art, I just did it.”
One advantage Johnson holds over his peers in the art world is a built-in network of potential patrons. He once painted Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. for Rays pitcher Blake Snell, a Seattle-area native. Retired second baseman Brandon Phillips is a current Johnson client, and former Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is among his supporters, too. How many former teammates have invested in his art?
“Not enough,” Johnson said with a laugh.“There could definitely be more, wink-wink.”
The business side of the art world, and the business side of playing baseball, are not alike. The idea of a steady, lucrative paycheck is foreign to the average painter.
Already, two years after his retirement from baseball, it’s abundantly clear that Johnson is not an average painter.
“We’re getting to the point where this is definitely going to overshadow that (baseball) career,” he said.
L.A. artist Flore opens the doors to his Florida home that honors original, mid-century design.
The painting is by Flore entitled Jackson, created in homage to Jackson Pollock. The original Marshmallow chair by George Nelson is covered in Alexander Girard fabric produced by Herman Miller. The Eames storage unit in background faces an Eames molded plywood coffee table. Photos by Dan Chavkin Photo.
In the dining area, Andy Warhol’s Flower’s hangs near a yellow velvet Eames lounge chair. A Knoll tulips-based kitchen table with walnut top is surrounded by DCM Eames chairs, below a George Nelson bubble lamp light fixture.
The kitchen features original appliances and wood cabinets with a new Andy Warhol rug. Jean-Michel Basquia’s The Head (1983) peers through in the background.
Originally designed by Gene Leedy, who was one of the pioneers of the Florida modernist movement and founders of the Sarasota School of Architecture, Flore wanted to honor the home and leave most of the original details intact. “When you walk into the house nothing stood out to you being new,” he says. “I wanted everything to look period-specific, like you walked into a home from 1963.”
The Le Chaise Lounge by Eames sits in the primary bedroom with matching vintage credenza and MCM bedside tables that hold vintage orange bedside lamps. On the wall is Keith Haring’s Statue of Liberty.
In the primary bathroom, the original cabinetry that matches the kitchen faces a walk-in jacuzzi tub and shower which opens to the back patio. Flore found vintage Rya rugs for the floor.
Aside from paint and a few updates here and there, Flore left the interior finishes untouched and focused his creativity on decor and art selections. “I love low lines in furniture, which you will see reflected in most pieces I have chosen for my homes. In addition, I always approach a space with a theme (time period, color, etc.). My loft in Miami was inspired by Japanese architects, where as the Gene Leedy home was inspired by mid-century design.”
At the foot of the bed is diamond Bertoia chair by Knoll. Original DCM chair is next to a teak bed that holds crushed velvet pillows.
With his goal of maintaining the home’s bones and enhancing with pieces that paid tribute to the original design, Flore created a contemporary peek into historic modernism. “I want to live in spaces that inspire me and be surrounded by designs that I admire,” he says. “Everything becomes pieces of art.”
Globally respected for his Urban Cubism collection, the final design inside the Leedy home inspired Flore to create his now popular series, The Modernist, all available through L.A. gallery Art Angels. A symphonic display of chaos and color, each work evokes the explosion of hues inside the Leedy home. “There is not a lot of separation between my life and my art.”
Async Art celebrated another record-breaking sale of digital NFT (non-fungible token) artwork earlier in November, this time from retired baseball player Micah Johnson. “ˈsä-v(ə-)rən-tē” (pronounced “sovereignty”), seeks to empower two African-American kids who had a rough start in life with Bitcoin donations on their respective birthdays embedded within the artwork.
The bidding for “ˈsä-v(ə-)rən-tē” kicked off at $70K and was eventually sold for more than $120,000 to a private collector.
In continuation of his dream focused works intended to inspire the black youth of our world, the former MLB athlete (Dodgers, White Sox, Braves)turned artist, selected two children who have experienced great tragedy in their lives (Jacque 8, Rayden 7) as the subject matter of the groundbreaking blockchain art installment, a programmable digital artwork depicting the two youths standing in a field before an astronaut suit and a door. The work, a time sensitive programmable photograph features two real subjects in a scene with an astronaut suit on one side of the door and the boys on the other.
For the next 11 years, the door that is standing between the boys and their “dreams” will open more each year [at the prompt of funds donated using the Async Apple TV app] until they are face to face with their dream archetype on their 18th birthday.
Johnson’s use of the astronaut in his works symbolically represents the dreams children aspire to. It also stems from overhearing his then 4-year-old nephew ask his mother, “Can astronauts be Black?”
The mission of this work started by simply wanting to empower the two youths by letting them see themselves in high-art, but quickly turned into an important use-case for Bitcoin in the black community.
“When asked what I want to be when I grow up, I answered without hesitation, a baseball player,” says Micah Johnson. “Because where I’m from, we don’t have a ‘Plan B’, all we have is ‘Plan A.’ As an artist, I feel a responsibility to use my platform to support and inspire our youth to achieve their dreams. No one should be told to have a ‘Plan B.’”
The partnership with Async Art, the world’s first programmable art platform which allows anyone to easily interact with and display their artwork through supported smart TVs, enables viewers around the globe to donate Bitcoin to directly impact their lives by for the subjects in the photograph.
The piece itself holds several symbolic references with the changes of its Layers.
The door represents opportunities, and it starts off closed and out of reach in the year 2020. Over the next 11 years the door will become more visible. The passage of time is denoted by the automatic Day/Night changes within the piece each day, and the astronaut’s secret identity can be revealed only by the new owner when the piece sells. The most powerful change is when the boys completely disappear from the photograph when they turn 18, signaling that they have walked through the door of opportunity. The piece is a symbolic act of sovereignty, an independent solution to an ongoing national conversation about equity, diversity, and inclusion
Every year on the boys’ birthdays, the artwork is programmed to display a QR code that links to a Bitcoin wallet. A global audience can now celebrate Jacque and Rayden’s birthdays on November 6th and August 10th, as well as donate in confidence that 100% of the wallet will be turned over to the boys.
With every year’s donation, the door between the kids and the astronaut will slowly open, signaling that they are one step closer to achieving their dreams. Upon turning eighteen, the children will permanently disappear from the digital artwork-signaling that they have walked through this “door of opportunity.” This will mark the end of a decade-long journey with #BirthdayBitcoin.
Additionally,ˈ sä-v(ə-)rən-tē will be featured as public art space on Standard Vision billboard at the Courtyard Marriott 901 W. Olympic Blvd.–Los Angeles, CA from December 7th through January 10th.
Micah Johnson is a self-taught figurative artist who uses strong gestural lines combined with loose brush strokes to create dramatic portraits primarily featuring African-American children. He sees art as an opportunity to inspire a broader demographic around the subjects of racial equality, chasing your dreams without limitations, and the empowerment of young people.
“If I try to really, really focus on the eyes, make the viewer feel this connection – and if they feel that connection – then maybe it will change their perspective on something,” Johnson said.Via MLB.com by Michael Clair@michaelsclair
November 23, 2020
“Mom, can astronauts be Black?”
That’s the heartbreaking question that has fueled former big leaguer Micah Johnson’s recent artistic work.
The former second baseman and outfielder for the White Sox, Dodgers, Braves and Rays has done plenty of dreaming in his life. He was a big league baseball player and now he’s a professional artist of critically acclaimed and highly sought-after fine art paintings.
But when he heard his nephew ask that question, Johnson was reminded of just how far the world still has to go.
A decade ago, Micah Johnson wouldn’t have considered himself an artist. He was a baseball player, a Major Leaguer, something he had worked at every day since he was a child. He spent hours at the gym and the ballfield, refining his skills and reaching the pinnacle of the sport.
You can thank Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a Spring Training icebreaker for changing all that. To begin each Dodgers season, Roberts has newcomers stand up in the clubhouse and share something about themselves with their new teammates.
A decade ago, Micah Johnson wouldn’t have considered himself an artist. He was a baseball player, a Major Leaguer, something he had worked at every day since he was a child. He spent hours at the gym and the ballfield, refining his skills and reaching the pinnacle of the sport.
You can thank Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a Spring Training icebreaker for changing all that. To begin each Dodgers season, Roberts has newcomers stand up in the clubhouse and share something about themselves with their new teammates.
Jace Peterson had Johnson design him a tattoo. His mural featuring Jackie Robinson went up in the Negro Leagues Museum. His first show – “What Lines?” – debuted at the Woodruff Arts Center while Johnson was a member of the Braves in 2017.
But this was simply the start of Johnson’s artistic journey. He was still heavily influenced by Shelby and Sandy, the famous pop art duo in Los Angeles who helped introduce the ballplayer to the art world.
“They had this particular skill set, which was painting really crisp lines and smooth lines, and they’re very tidy and neat people. That’s not me,” Johnson explained. “So, as time evolved, I developed a style of my painting. I just go with the flow. My paintings have an end, but the end is loose.”
After Johnson spent the 2018 season in Triple-A with the Rays, the outfielder hung up his cleats and threw himself entirely into painting. Not surprisingly, he approached his artwork the same way he had athletics.
“For me to get to the Major Leagues, it took me 18 years of continuous work – I started when I was three,” Johnson said. “So, with art, I’m trying to work at that rate to condense those 18 years down. But that work ethic is instilled in me because I know at the end of that work, you’re going to get rewarded.”
“I’m really fortunate because my dream was to play Major League Baseball, and I did it,” Johnson added. “I wasn’t special – six-foot tall in cleats. So, I wasn’t special at all. I just wanted to show people I did that. But now everybody’s talking about my art. They’re not talking about baseball anymore. I’m not a special artist, either. I didn’t have classes, I just work. That’s it, I’ve got nothing special at all.”
He’s found his own voice and perspective along the way. He’s drifted toward working with charcoals and a kaleidoscope of colors. And he realized what story he wanted his artwork to tell.
“My whole mission is to inspire children,” Johnson said. “But I try to have that looseness to it. And that’s just how I am. I work a lot with just my hands. Sometimes I don’t even have a paintbrush in my studio. I try to do these really bold lines and have that perfect blend of whitespace and also color. That’s how I’d define my style now.”
That’s led to his most recent dream-focused work, which opened at Art Angels over the summer. Many of his paintings feature real subjects wearing an astronaut’s helmet, while they paint or draw or learn the cello or simply play hopscotch. The helmet represents the dreams Black kids have and the opportunities that are hopefully open to them. He uses colors and images that children can relate to. He wants Black children to see themselves in a fine art world that is historically dominated by white artists and subjects.
“In the beginning, it was all inspired by my nephews because I just wanted to inspire them. And that’s how my approach is – I tried to focus on inspiring one person,” Johnson said. “So, a lot of my subjects are real subjects. And I think that’s a message for everybody else – just focus on impacting one person and you’ll really impact the world. So, for me, it’s my nephews, and they’re young, and maybe when they grow up, and they start looking at this, maybe they’ll feel inspired.”
His most recent work, “sä-v(ə-)rən-tē” (pronounced sovereignty), is a continuation of that theme, but the work is drastically different from anything Johnson has done before.
The piece is a digital artwork available to view on Apple TV or on a billboard at 901 W. Olympic Blvd. in Los Angeles from Dec. 7 through Jan. 10. It features two young children (Jacque, 8, and Rayden, 7), who have experienced tragedy in their lives staring at a closed door in a field, with an astronaut standing on the other side.
Unlike a painting, viewers can watch “sä-v(ə-)rən-tē” change in real time. The light shifts from day to night and with each passing year, the door will swing open a little wider, giving Jacque and Rayden a wider glimpse at the astronaut who awaits them on the other side of the door. A QR code connected to a bitcoin wallet also appears on the children’s birthdays, allowing viewers to donate directly to them.
“The whole idea behind it was I wanted to show an independent solution to the historically prejudiced financial system in the United States,” Johnson said. “So I started thinking of ways to do that.”
“The potential there is pretty unique,” Johnson added. “And it also allows people to see different ways to invest, different ways to build wealth, and not rely on the traditional system, which has basically turned its back on the Black community for a long time.”
The piece is programmed for the next 11 years, ending with the children stepping through the door when they turn 18.
Hopefully, the world will continue to change along with it. Perhaps it has already started, as evidenced by this summer’s massive protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, with baseball players across the league showing their support for their Black teammates and communities. But Johnson knows this was just the very first step.
“It’s hard to see progress in a couple months,” Johnson said. “It’s the equivalent of you break up with somebody and they say, ‘I changed,’ and it’s only been a couple of weeks. Nobody could change that quickly.”
Johnson points to the newest Rookie of the Year voting results, which saw the Mariners’ Kyle Lewis and Brewers’ Devin Williams take home the awards – the first time since 1984 that two Black players have won it.
“To me, that’s important. But you look at all the comments on posts and stuff. Everyone’s like, ‘Why does this matter if they’re Black? Or blonde?’ I don’t know if we still get it or not, so you have to keep talking about it. I think people are becoming more aware, but you’ve got to keep on pushing the message.”
Still, Johnson is hopeful. That’s obvious when you look at his works, colorful and messy, and the impact that he can make on the lives of the children he paints.
“It’s hard to tell because I’m trying to inspire children, right?” Johnson asked. “So, we’re not going to be able to know what and who we’re really inspiring – or what the results are going to be – until you and I are old and we see these kids running for Congress and doing these amazing things. Which is the hope.”
You can view sä-v(ə-)rən-tē on Apple TV through the Async Art appand on the StandardVision billboard at the Courtyard Marriott at 901 W. Olympic Blvd. in Los Angeles from Dec. 7 through Jan. 10. Johnson is currently at work on a new exhibit that will debut at Art Angels in 2021.
28 de octubre de 2020
Ignacio Gana, el artista chileno, presenta una exposición donde convergen arte y deporte con la pasión de ambos mundos: The Game
“Estoy seguro que marcará un antes y un después en mi carrera”, así resume el artista chileno Ignacio Gana lo que espera de su nuevo proyecto The Game, una exposición en la que fusiona el arte contemporáneo con los deportes más populares y seguidos en todo el mundo, especialmente en Estados Unidos, entre los cuales destacan el fútbol americano, el basquetbol y el béisbol.
El artista chileno Ignacio Gana presenta su nuevo proyecto The game, una fusión de arte y deporte
Es una de las personalidades latinoamericanas más sobresaliente, reconocida e innovadora del mundo del arte en la actualidad, Ignacio Gana usa como medio expresivo la escultura y la pintura para desarrollar narrativas de alto contenido a través de su apreciación de la forma humana y el deporte. Sus piezas son parte infalible de colecciones particulares, asi como también, espacios como The Museum of Modern Latin American Art (MOLAA), el Museo Ralli y el Guggenheim de Venecia entre otros, son algunos puntos clave en los que su labor ha sido reconocida. Como ha hecho antes con otras disciplinas y formas de arte, en su nueva exposición The Game apela al deporte como inspiración para obras concebidas en nobles materiales como el oro, bronce, cristales Swarovski o mármoles gigantes traídos de Italia.
Un trabajo así es inédito, hasta el momento. “No se ha hecho nada parecido; será, definitivamente, mi obra más conceptual y vanguardista”, comenta el artista. “Antes de la pandemia tenía un estilo muy reconocible y la situación me dio tiempo para perfeccionar mi trabajo y crear algo nuevo. La vida pasa tan rápido, ha sido un giro gigante; si vas a soñar , tienes que soñar en grande. Por eso, esta propuesta donde conviven el arte, el deporte y la pasión, me sorprendió a mí mismo y estoy seguro que será un hit en mi carrera y en todo Estados Unidos”, asegura.
El artista Ignacio Gana que suele inspirarse en la experiencia de de la vida, de ser padre, la música y el deporte, pero lo más importante es que, más allá de los sueños que lo muevan, su horizonte de percepción y creación no tiene límites.. Él sabe asumir ambiciosos retos artísticos que siempre resultan en logros de vanguardia, frecuentemente premiados. Durante su carrera, el artista ha expuesto sus espectaculares y elegantes obras en países como España, Dubái, Bélgica, Italia y Chile y en ciudades como Nueva York, Washington, Chicago, Los Ángeles y Miami, este último es el lugar donde reside.
The Game reunirá en un mismo espacio a los atletas más importantes de Estados Unidos, a los fanáticos de los deportes, a los amantes del arte y a los coleccionistas.
Además de los múltiples premios recibidos y ser considerado uno de los artistas más influyentes de Miami, en 2017 la Academia Latinoamericana de la Música y las Grabaciones (Latin Grammy) le designó el título de Artista Oficial de la entrega número 18 del Grammy Latino. Como ahora con el deporte, esa interacción con un evento musical de esa magnitud fue una fusión entre plástica y música, plasmada en todo lo que tuvo que ver con la imagen gráfica del evento. “Sigue siendo una gran reconocimiento de mi trabajo y trayectoria como artista” , fue increíble estar en la alfombra roja del Grammy y ser premiado en uno de los eventos mas importantes de Estado Unidos” comenta Gana.
Mucho más ambiciosa, la exposición The Game incluye más de 30 trabajos entre escultura, instalaciones y obra gráfica, así como de algunas ediciones limitadas de lujo y reunirá en un mismo espacio a los atletas más importantes de Estados Unidos, a los fanáticos de los deportes, a los amantes del arte y a los coleccionistas.
“Estoy haciendo esculturas puntuales para algunos grandes deportistas de la NBA, por ejemplo, así como para la mejor jugadora de soccer de Estados Unidos y para su pareja y la mejor basquetbolista del país. Trabajos como éste estarán presentes. Cada deportista podrá verse reflejado en la obra”.
Para quienes ven el arte como un territorio elitista y rodeado de limitantes, el comentario de Gana es que “Siempre he pensado que el arte debe llegar a todos los públicos, he desarrollado obras de diferentes formatos, técnicas y valores, al alcance de toda la gente, las cuales incluyen temas como la pasión, el triunfo, diversidad de género y color en torno al deporte” es una oportunidad para que todo el mundo se involucre en el arte. Para mí, la exposición tiene esa aura icónica de llevarse una copa o un trofeo a casa, a través de una obra de arte basada en el deporte que más te guste”. La colección contará con una edición limitada de alto lujo y también de ediciones de 10 piezas para una segunda línea.
Ignacio Gana usa como medio expresivo la escultura e instalaciones para desarrollar narrativas de alto contenido a través de su apreciación de la figura humana y el deporte.
En lo personal, Ignacio Gana ha movido en este proyecto su cercanía al mundo del deporte. “Me gustan los deportes que generan mucha adrenalina y, al ligarlos con el arte, el objetivo es rescatar la pasión que pueden despertar al estar junto a una escultura o instalación".
“Esas energías cautivantes son las fibras por las que transita esta obra que se presentará en una de las capitales más importantes del mundo del arte”. Gana se refiere a Los Ángeles, donde estará en exhibición la muestra a mediados de 2021, específicamente en una de las galerías más prestigiosas de la costa oeste de Estado Unidos Art Angels, que será también el punto cero para una gira por los lugares donde se estén jugando los torneos deportivos más importantes en las distintas regiones de Estados Unidos. A partir de The Game se abre una puerta aún mayor para Ignacio Gana, un artista que afirma que “en el mundo del arte tienes las alas para volar adonde tú quieras, no hay límites”.
Para conocer más su obra visita: ignaciogana.com
October 2, 2020 via thirtyfourfiftywest.com
Walking into Lyle Owerko’s multi-level space at Thirty Four Fifty West, it is immediately evident that he is an impactful force in the world of art. His framed works, in progress pieces, pop culture-influenced interiors — all striking components of his beautifully reimagined residence and a unique glimpse into the workings of his mind.
Lyle first came to prominence when his photograph of the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001 landed on the cover of Time Magazine — later recognized as one of the top 50 covers of all time. His groundbreaking Boombox Project then gained him worldwide acclaim, with his pieces housed in many of the world’s most respected art institutions as well as collected by the likes of Jay-Z, Beyonce, Madonna and Swizz Beatz. Today, Lyle’s full-time studio at Thirty Four Fifty West has kickstarted his next chapter of work in Los Angeles.
Designed to be a flexible canvas for his most visionary ideas, Lyle’s four-story space is equal parts creative lab, art gallery and creative atelier, complete with a modern minimalist library, multimedia studio space, dream home office, garage turned workshop/professional-grade printing shop and more. For a deeper look inside, we sat down with Lyle to gain insight into his ingenuity, how he makes the most of his space at Thirty Four Fifty West and why the community truly is “the gift that keeps on giving.”
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT WHAT YOU DO AND HOW YOU TYPICALLY USE YOUR SPACE AT THIRTY FOUR FIFTY WEST ON A DAILY BASIS?
I’m a Fine Art photographer, represented both in the United States and internationally. Among my most recognizable works is the image I shot for the cover of Times Magazine’s September 11, 2001 issue. Since then, my practice has expanded into film, sculpture and, most recently, digital arts that sell on a blockchain enabled platform. In my current projects, I seek to bridge ethnic and geographic borders in a manner that documents cultural grounds for the betterment of the human condition.
I use my space at Thirty Four Fifty West solely for creative purposes, so I typically start my day in Los Feliz at home — which is just a ten-minute drive from the office. Coffee is a must after getting my two-year-old son started on his day, then I’ll head into the office while tuned into the events of the day on Bloomberg, NPR or CNN. That sets my sights on what I need to accomplish in the studio.
YOU HAVE DONE AN INCREDIBLE JOB REPURPOSING EACH SPACE TO FULFILL YOUR CREATIVE NEEDS. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT YOU DID TO ACHIEVE THIS?
I added a set of floor-to-ceiling shelves that brought my book collection out of their boxes and to life again. I brought most of them from my New York City home and I can gladly say they’re enjoying the lovely California light now. I also have a printing lab in the garage where works from current and future shows are staged. Working inside the garage has allowed me to meet a lot of fascinating people in the Thirty Four Fifty West community.
Another major plus is the design of the units. The vertical structure of the space is incredibly open, has amazing light and is an extremely productive, peaceful place to call “home” for all my creative endeavors.
ANY TIPS FOR ACHIEVING THE PERFECT WORK ENVIRONMENT?
Fast-speed WiFi, a fridge stocked with healthy eats for refueling throughout the day and a constant flow of music. That’s been my survival kit for the last six months.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT WORKING AT THIRTY FOUR FIFTY WEST?
Thirty Four Fifty West has been the gift that keeps giving. It’s close to home, its access from all over Los Angeles is unprecedented and there’s a community here that thrives on finding out what your neighbors are making, creating and doing.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT AT HOME?
My wife and I are avid travelers. A giant part of our relationship is exploring beaches, cities and as many far-off locations that we can fit into a year. She is also a fine artist, so we feed a lot off of each other with sourcing inspiration and sharing in each other’s creative practices.
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO TRAVEL TO NEXT WITH THE FAMILY?
I’d like to take my wife and son to Hawaii. The island of Kauai is particularly meaningful to us, but if we’re really feeling adventurous, we’ll probably go to Tahiti.
IF YOU COULD ONLY EAT AT THREE RESTAURANTS IN THE LOCAL AREA, WHERE WOULD YOU GO?
We’re big fans of All-Time, SugarFish and the 101 Cafe. We also frequent Home State a lot — our son loves it there because we can sit outside and watch traffic pass by.
By Chad Scott for Forbes.com
October 2, 2020
Opening reception for Russell Young’s “Heroes + Heroines” at Art Angels Gallery in Los Angeles.
Would rapid result Coronavirus testing at the door bring crowds back to art galleries and museums? Artist Russell Young and Art Angels Gallery in Los Angeles think so.
On September 24th, they found out.
Partnering with social-impact investment company QuestCap, which implemented its on-site rapid testing protocol, Art Angels became the first art gallery to offer rapid result testing to visitors prior to entry, allowing patrons to then have an art experience free from worry of catching the disease.
Each guest was provided a Covid-19 test prior to their time-reserved entry. Test results were verbally given to guests within five minutes, visibly viewed on the test itself, explained, then emailed to them within 30 minutes of completing the process.
Tests were administered by registered nurses and analyzed on location via a QuestCube COVID-19 pop-up testing lab managed by Collection Sites and powered by Alcala Testing and Analysis Services, a CLIA-licensed laboratory based in San Diego.
“Once tested, collectors were very comfortable walking the exhibit with the artist as well as speaking with each other,” Art Angels Gallery co-owner Jacquelin Napal told Forbes.com. “Whether they chose to keep their masks on or remove them, you could see a level of relief come over their faces which we were happy to be able to provide.”
Art Angels hopes the success of their opening shows other galleries and institutions a safe way to conduct business and host more normalized in-person art events moving forward.
So far, so good.
“Testing has been very successful with collectors eager to be surrounded by the beauty of art once again; they welcomed the experience and opportunity,” Napal said.
Opening reception for Russell Young’s “Heroes + Heroines” at Art Angels Gallery in Los Angeles.
On display was “Heroes + Heroines,” Young’s homage to stardom portrayed in acrylic paint and enamel screen prints on linen featuring the artist’s signature use of diamond dust. A wall of heroes and a wall of heroines. A shrine to American fame.
“The icons featured in ‘Heroes & Heroines’ are the protagonists that gave me hope and optimism growing up under leaden skies in the brutal Northern England of the 1970s,” Young told Forbes.com. “These ‘Heroes & Heroines’ illuminated my teenage years, they were my escapism, the hope of a brighter future for the young man I wanted to become.”
Everyone could use a little escapism from the unending series of tragedies 2020 has born.
“In a year where ‘No’ is the response to everything, I wanted to drop a big ‘Yes’ on the world,” Young said.
Young’s perspective during pandemic merits particular attention considering he already survived one. A previous bout of H1N1 put him in a coma.
The artist’s first breakthrough was his photography of George Michael for the sleeve of the album Faith in 1987. Young has photographed many music stars throughout the years including Morrissey, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, REM, The Smiths and Diana Ross. He also went on to shoot over 100 music videos for leading artists during MTV’s height in the 1990s. Now, he turns his proximity to fame into a reimagining of classic Hollywood, immortalizing icons like Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor, who actually collected Young’s work.
Opening reception for Russell Young’s “Heroes + Heroines” at Art Angels Gallery in Los Angeles.
Young explained why it’s important for him to see people back in galleries experiencing art in the flesh without the intervention of a screen.
“My diamond dust paintings are tactile and sculptural, they have an energy that reflects light in every direction and are luxurious in every sense of the word, so they need to be experienced in person,” he said. “The physicality of the work, how the light makes these characters come alive, is what really draws out their inherent optimism.”
There’s a word rarely seen this year. Take it wherever you can find it. You can find it through November 8 in L.A. at Art Angels Gallery.
By Cameron Kiszla for Beverly Press
October 1, 2020
Artist Russell Young, left, hosted an in-person show at Art Angels in West Hollywood thanks to a rapid COVID-19 test. (photo by Juan Marco Torres)
The coronavirus pandemic may have shut down many in-person gatherings over the last six months, but last week, a glimmer of normalcy returned to a West Hollywood art gallery.
The Art Angels gallery at 9020 Beverly Blvd. hosted artist Russell Young’s “Heroes & Heroines” show on Sept. 24, and collectors and friends entered the gallery and walked the show with the artist.
The in-person gathering hosted about 70 people overall, said Jacquelin Napal, one of the owners of Art Angels, but the attendees were split into groups of 10 or fewer people that attended the show in shifts, in accordance with Los Angeles County health guidelines.
Before entering, everyone was tested for COVID-19 using QuestCap’s rapid antibody test, which indicates the presence of antibodies that show one’s body is currently fighting COVID-19, not the more commonly known antibodies that indicate the body’s battle against the coronavirus is complete.
Tim Shelburn, U.S. operations manager for Collection Sites, a subsidiary of QuestCap, said the tests use blood from a finger prick, and they return preliminary results in less than 10 minutes. Full, certified laboratory results are emailed to those tested later that day.
Shelburn said for Young’s show, QuestCap offered the tests – which normally cost $59 each – at no charge as a way to show that holding in-person events is possible during the pandemic as long as safety procedures are followed. In this case, that involved several health-related rules, such as 30-minute shifts of attendees, followed by a 15-minute sanitization period between each group.
Other QuestCap clients include the NBA and film studios who are returning to production, he said.
“We’re just trying to show the community that you can promote safe events if you follow the proper protocols. We want to be part of the solution to be able to bring things back to normal,” Shelburn said.
Napal said during the pandemic, Art Angels hasn’t had to close, but they’ve often had to use technology, including social media, to show art to potential buyers. Last week, the collectors were thrilled to see the art – and other people – in person again, she said.
“Everyone was a little bit nervous, but excited at the same time,” Napal said. “It ran fairly smoothly. Everyone who came was aware of what they were walking into, but it was nice to see that relief wash over their face as they were told they were negative and could walk the show with the artist. You could just see the calm come over them to be out and see art again in the company of the artist.”
Young, who hails from Northern England but now lives between Ventura and Santa Barbara, said the art in the “Heroes & Heroines” show is especially suited for in-person viewing. Young, who said he likes to “play with fame and shame,” procures photographs of celebrities, paints the background and sprinkles diamond dust “as a sort of three-dimensional, tactile layer or veil.”
“In a sense, it makes them more iconic, more unobtainable. I like the sculptural aspect to them, and when you move around the room, the diamond dust sparkles and reflects,” Young said.
Russell Young’s art involves decorating pictures of celebrities with paint and diamond dust. (photo by Juan Marco Torres)
Young also enjoyed interacting with others in a safe environment, which allowed for physical contact and conversation with the guests, including the actor Sean Hayes of “Will & Grace” and his husband, Scott Icenogle.
“It was spectacular. It was wonderful. On a human level, it was really interesting to see people’s reactions after 10 minutes. They know they’re in a room where everyone in the last hour has tested negative for COVID. It takes a while for people to sink in and interact with each other,” Young said.
Once that realization sunk in, however, the attendees were all too eager to enjoy face-to-face conversation with strangers once again.
“All of the collectors were excited. Everyone was excited to speak to anybody and everybody who wanted to speak to them,” Napal added.
The success of Young’s show offers hope for a variety of people, businesses and events that have been struggling during the pandemic. Young said there is now a template for other artists – especially those who are struggling – a way to exhibit their art and connect with potential buyers. Napal agreed and said the tests could be used to safely bring back art fairs, such as Frieze Los Angeles and Art Basel.
“More than anything, so many galleries rely on [art fairs], and it would feel far more comfortable for collectors to come to these fairs and know they are being tested instead of taking a chance and hoping people will attend,” Napal said. “People will be hesitant, so whatever added security you can give them … whatever additional benefits you can get to attend these things, I think collectors will start to be more open to it.”
Shelburn said QuestCap is hoping to ultimately help the return of events featuring crowds of thousands.
“I think we found that everyone is very willing to do testing to enter an event like [Young’s show],” he said. “We’re hoping that one baby step at a time, we can bring back arena sports and all types of gatherings. It’s a process, but it can be done and done successfully.”
QuestCap is also launching its testing services across the country using hundreds of 10-foot by 10-foot cubes, which can be installed at gas stations, grocery stores and malls, allowing people to quickly know their COVID-19 status and, in the end, helping Americans get better control of the virus.
“While you’re pumping gas you can do … a test and receive your results the same day … People are trying to be responsible, but unless you’re a major corporation or a sports team, you just don’t know where to test or you’re waiting in line for hours and hours … We saw there was a big problem there and we’re trying to find a way to solve it,” he said.
On a personal level, Young said his show allowed him to peek into how in-person events will have to be held, at least for the coming months and years.
“Whenever we get back to normal, it’s obviously going to be phased. It sort of gave me a little glimpse into the future on how the world starts to roll out again, because everybody’s not going to get a vaccine for it on day one, nor will everyone want to do that. It’s quite strange days to live in,” Young said.
The worlds first Covid tested art exhibition took place September 24th at Art Angels for Russell Young’s, Heroes & Heroines.
Each invited guest had a rapid on-site covid test which delivered results in minutes, once guests were shown to be negative they were able to safely walk the exhibition thanks to our partners QuestCap Inc.
The exhibition lasted for 6 hours so guests could be spaced out throughout the day to adhere to county guidelines.
The future is here.
JULY 16, 2020 Bob Nightengale via USA TODAY
There was so much Micah Johnson wanted to say when he was a Major League Baseball player, but was afraid to say it.
There were so many times Johnson wanted to speak out about social inequality in America as a Black man, but wanted to keep his job.
Now, with paint in his hands instead of a bat, Johnson is speaking out through his art, finally free to express himself.
“It’s a shame I wasn’t able to speak up, or pay attention like I wanted,’’ Johnson tells USA TODAY Sports. “I was selfish. I was trying to make money. It’s embarrassing I didn’t speak out. I came to the field every day worrying about being sent down. I was just trying to survive. I couldn’t run my mouth about different causes, or else they would have forgotten about me so quick.
“Now, I have a platform that motivates me, that overshadows my baseball career. I have an opportunity to send a message, a really important way of expressing myself. I should have done that when I played.
“I’m not going to miss out on it this time.’’
Johnson, 29, who spent seven years in professional baseball, including parts of three years in the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves, has given up baseball for a paint brush.
He spent his whole life dreaming of being a ballplayer, and on April 6, 2015, played his first major-league game with the White Sox, getting his first career hit off the late Yordano Ventura of the Kansas City Royals.
Three years later, Johnson was out of baseball.
“Growing up in the ’90s, baseball was all I cared about,’’ Johnson says. “That’s all I wanted to be was a major-league ballplayer. I miss that competition, but I don’t miss the game. It’s just a mess. I was a small-ball guy. I couldn’t hit home runs. I couldn’t change the game. It got depressing.
“So I got out.’’
Johnson turned to painting, and suddenly feels free, expressing his mind, displaying his raw emotions, on canvases for everyone to see at the Art Angels Gallery in Los Angeles.
His first painting was a portrait of Dodgers great Maury Wills, and done on a whim in 2016 when manager Dave Roberts asked the young players in spring training about their hobbies away from the playing field. Johnson was a piano player, but too embarrassed to admit it in front of his teammates. So he spit out that he was a painter.
He just forgot to include the part his last art class was in elementary school.
“I wasn’t going to play the piano in front of the team,’’ Johnson said, “so I told him I painted.’’
He spent all spring working on the painting, turned it in just before the end of camp, and it was a hit, with even Wills loving the rendition.
“I don’t think it was good,’’ Johnson said, “but everyone else sure seemed to like it.’’
A new career was born.
Johnson, who retired from baseball two years ago, is a full-time artist, focusing his work on the Black Lives Matter movement. He has painted pictures of George Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis triggered the movement. He has also painted scenes from the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. He and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Matt Szczur co-painted a portrait of Floyd that was purchased by Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward for $10,000, with the proceeds going to charities fighting for social justice.
“Now, with what’s going on in America, and as a Black artist,’’ Johnson says, “I wanted to depict the emotions of this time. You’re seeing a lot of pride. You’re seeing Black history being rediscovered, history people didn’t know about. It’s my way of preserving history in this very critical time in America, a raw look at what’s going on in America.’’
He also wants to inspire kids, believing that this generation of Black kids could be the most resilient group ever in America, with his own 4-year-old nephew, Elijah, motivating him.
It was Elijah who recently asked his mother, “Mom, can astronauts be Black?”
Johnson was speechless.
“To think he was putting limitations on his dream,’’ Johnson said, “that really hit me. That hurt me. He inspired me to start painting astronauts. An astronaut is a universal statement and can stand the test of time.’’
Looking at Johnson’s recent art work, you’ll see Black children wearing Astronaut suits. Some are wearing capes. One stands with a cello in his hand. A backpack on another. There are no limits to anyone’s dreams in Johnson’s art world.
Johnson, who grew up in Indianapolis and went to Indiana University, is moved by ballplayers now speaking out about systematic racism in this country. He never felt comfortable speaking out, but these are different times. He loves seeing today’s young players, such as 24-year-old St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, speak his mind, openly raising the possibility of players showing unity on opening day by kneeling during the national anthem.
“I think it will happen,’’ Johnson says, “because there is no risk anymore. When a guy like Bruce Maxwell did it, there was risk, and he paid the price. Now, if someone bashes you speaking out, they’re in the wrong, which is great place to be. I do think there will be more outspokenness.’’
He applauds Dodgers Cy Young pitcher Clayton Kershaw opening his eyes to Black Lives Matter, saying in a statement that it’s time to end the silence: “I want to listen, I want to learn, I want to do better and be different.’’ He was stirred by Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein’s criticism of himself, saying, “The majority of people that I’ve hired, if I’m being honest, have similar backgrounds as me and look a lot like me. That’s something I need to ask myself why. I need to question my own assumptions, my own attitudes.’’
The power and the energy created by the moment, Johnson wonders aloud, may not have been possible if it wasn’t for COVID-19. The disease shut down most of the world. And the moment George took his last breath, captured on camera for the world to witness the horrifying scene, people had time to reflect, explore their inner soul, and examine their own consciousness.
“There were no sports, no movies being on, so everybody’s attention was on this,’’ Johnson says. “I truly believe that if sports were happening, baseball was going on, the NBA was going on, we would not see the same response.
“It was almost the perfect storm, people sat and had to re-evaluate. You think Theo Epstein would have been so thoughtful and questioning his hiring practices if the Cubs were playing the Cardinals that day. You think Kershaw would have been saying that if he was ready to pitch in San Francisco. Just the fact there were no sports to distract from that.
“Hopefully, what we’re going through will spark change, and what I’m painting will benefit future generations.’’
Johnson has found his calling, and after growing up his whole life wanting to be a baseball player, he has new ambitions, one that could have a lasting impact far beyond what he could accomplish on the playing field.
“It’s weird to think this is my new life’s path because I was so obsessed with baseball,’’ Johnson says. “It was such an integral part of my life. Well, I learned it’s Ok to have more dreams.
“I found my new dream.
“Really, I found happiness.’’
TINA SHRIKE 07.08.2020 via Cultured
OLIVIA STEELE’S I LIKE WHERE THIS IS GOING. PHOTO BY GEORGE EVAN.
At what point does a phrase translate into a feeling? Artist Olivia Steele has spent her career refining, simplifying and then expanding upon the ones that have stuck with her. Her work, which spans from neon sculptures and other wall-bound methods to full blown installations, derives its power from the written word’s inherent multiplicity. Steele admires the way a single line can unlock many doors of consciousness and discussion. She applies the same principles to her work, searching for the most concise distillation of an emotional truth.
LIGHT THE WAY, 2018. PHOTO BY MANUEL ANAYA.
Her practice’s roots are twofold. The first is her hands-on curiosity, which attracts her to process-based techniques. She is a trained neon bender, and while she can’t necessarily keep up with the demands for her lighted works across the world, she has alliances with other professional benders who are trained in her unique style to blow her glass words into being. While she is not always the one bending , she is always doing the installation, with precision. Her love of language comes from her father, who deployed a seemingly inexhaustible bank of one liners in any and every moment of doubt and self-reflection. “Having eloquence—being able to say something strong and powerful without a paragraph—was something I wanted to emulate.”
While Steele chooses her words more carefully than most, it is her attention to who she does business with that led to her work with Art Angels on an inaugural solo exhibition in LA. “I’ve been working with Art Angels for three years, but I’ve never done a show with them,” Steele says. “I really respect and admire them because they do what they say and say what they do. Doing business with someone is like going to bed with them—it’s important to me that there is respect and trust and performance.” This past May, Art Angels proposed that they take the relationship to the next level. Steele concurred, citing an uptick in sales over the past year: “The work has been gaining traction and I think they wanted to take advantage of how relevant my work is to the moment.”
LOVE AND FEAR SCALE, 2020. PHOTO BY MANUEL ANAYA.
The show, titled “This Is Where It Gets Interesting…” will open in October (“rain or shine”). The exhibition is composed almost exclusively of new works, many of which Steele created while quarantining in Mexico City (she lives between there and Berlin). Some of the phrases she will present are lifted directly from the current moment, such as, “We are waves from the same sea”—the phrase emblazoned on Japan’s aid packages deployed to China during the first thrust of the pandemic. “It’s something from these times that we can reflect on,” Steele says. “It’s a nice reminder that two adversaries can share commonality.” In Steele’s version, the phrase becomes a wave itself.
06.16.2020 LILY BRADFIELD via Cultured
With much of the globe still sequestered at home, the art world has had to adapt to survive, and Art Angels is leading the charge. Founded in 2013 by Jacquelin Napal and Kat Emery, Art Angels has been forward-thinking from the start—“we had an Instagram before we even had a website,” says Emery. The gallery is spearheading the movement to reinvent the gallery world, diversifying their use of digital platforms to promote artists and representing both established and emerging artists alike. When the duo were first opening their brick and mortar space in Los Angeles, Napal explains that they “wanted to curate the gallery like a home—we wanted you to feel at home.” And that’s what keeps collectors coming back for more.
Inspired from a young age to pursue careers in art—Emery by old school rock ’n’ roll photography, and Napal by childhood museum visits and the world of fashion—the two have grown a gallery that now has flagship locations in both LA and Miami, as well as permanent art curations in elite hotels and restaurants. Working with everyone from traditional collectors to designers, contractors, commercial properties and museums, Napal and Emery’s collector base reflects a broadening of the art world’s limits that we’re seeing unfold before our very eyes. And when the Black Lives Matter protests started to sweep the nation and the globe, the pair reevaluated how they could continue to use their platform and worldwide reach to educate and encourage change. This action is only the beginning as they are working to further diversify their roster to include not only more Black artists—previously, they had the pleasure of exhibiting Knowledge Bennett, Skyler Grey, Hebru Brantley and Nelson Makamo—but Black women especially, an even further marginalized group in an art world that has traditionally prioritized men. “Creating a culture of diversity has always been a fundamental principle at Art Angels and one that has been carried through in building our team,” says Emery. The gallery has also devoted time and effort to charitable organizations such as The Pérez Art Museum, The Conscious Kid, The Global Gift Gala and Work Of Heart (with Miami Learning Experience School).
FLORE’S THE RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, 2020, PART OF THE ARTIST’S THE MODERNIST SERIES.
AN INSTALLATION VIEW OF FLORE’S URBAN CUBISM EXHIBITION AT ART ANGELS IN SPRING 2020.
With artists, they maintain this open-minded approach, When asked how they choose who to represent, Napal explained that “it doesn’t matter if it’s an established or an emerging artist. “For us, the journey, the vision and the message are extremely important when considering an artist. It’s just as important to think about how the work makes you feel—what does it inspire? What does it make you question? Does the work make you look deeper into your own subconscious? If so, are you uncomfortable or elated? Does it evoke a strong positive emotion? All of these are important questions for us when it comes to curating,” says Napal. And the striking objects and images that they exhibit contain this mindset, no matter the medium. For example, the colorful “Urban Cubism” of Flore, whose show was on view this spring at their Miami gallery, spoke profoundly to their audience. “People are looking to art more than ever for a positive message: something they can look at every day that brings positivity and happiness.” Through his work, Flore aims to strip down all the “filters” in everyday life—rules, stereotypes and other points of view that often mask reality—to reveal the truth in life and in ourselves. The “Modernist” series, seen above, which is Flore’s latest, exhibited in Los Angeles in conjunction with the Miami show, also exemplifies this profound message by exploring a mature poetic and even classically art historical relationship with the powers of color.
PUNKMETENDER’S MURAL OUTSIDE OF THE LOS ANGELES GALLERY.
Napal and Emery have continued to innovate in their novel use of digital platforms, using, for example, walk-through technology for their exhibitions online through which collectors can experience a leisurely stroll through the gallery from the safety of their own home. They curated “A Battle Won” with artist PUNKMETENDER, virtually—it had been due to open the first week of the mandatory closure of the LA gallery—which was able to be viewed online in 3-D. The gallery even used their brick-and-mortar space in LA during quarantine by extending the physical PUNKMETENDER show outside the gallery by way of a mural spanning 100ft around the building. It was important to the duo “To be able to bring his positive message to the exterior of the gallery and shine a light of positivity in what was (and is) a really stressful and upsetting time.” Art Angels plans to continue building on such experiences, incorporating full immersion both in- and outside of the gallery and throughout the city, with larger-than-life installations. Their upcoming fall show with leading light artist Olivia Steele will feature new ways to experience the exhibition, offering collectors an opportunity to participate in a socially distant “sound bath” within the gallery.
And through these measures, Art Angels has not just survived, but thrived. Even as some cities begin, tentatively, to reopen, nothing will be the same again—art included. As Napal put it, “the art world is shifting—the platforms used to create awareness are rapidly changing and it is our responsibility to our artists and collectors to continue evolving with the times.”
For more on Art Angel’s upcoming exhibitions, click here.
KAT EMERY AND JACQUELIN NAPAL.