Monday, July 27, 2009

“Being Mindful: Talking with Artist Stella Im Hultberg”



As I walked toward the paint-splattered front of Thinkspace Gallery in Silver Lake, three heads dripped into view. From the outside, I could see three female faces popping from the lime green walls. They were like black flower bulbs, but with narrowed eyes and pouted lips. The faces seemed to slide down the wall with a certain lightness and in an almost melting movement. Garlands of gold and green leaves tangled and swirled around their flowing figures.

It’s not Klimt, it’s not Art Nouveau—it’s “Memento Mori,” Stella Im Hultberg’s current solo show at Thinkspace Gallery.

Known for her sensuous female figures, Hultberg has her own distinct style. However, she still draws inspiration from the likes of Klimt and Schiele.

I had a huge turning point after seeing an epiphanic Egon Schiele exhibit a few years ago,” explained Hultberg in an email interview,
”I guess both Klimt and Schiele, to me, are endlessly inspiring.
Inspiration, though, comes from all angles - recently I've been inspired by mythology and nature a lot.”

And with these two themes, Hultberg conjured “Memento Mori” for her Los Angeles exhibition.

“Memento Mori, meaning ‘be mindful of death’ in Latin, just felt right when I had to choose a title,” Hultberg said,”the phrase was appealing in a way that it implied the duality of 
life and death.
In life, there's a bit of death, and vice versa - physiologically or mythologically speaking.” 


From wooden dolls to paintings, Hultberg fuses this idea of life and death with sultry, vibrant faces and somber black and white hues. It almost seems like a play with the folkloric art of wooden dolls and the traditional practice of still life—this time, with humans rather than fruit or vegetables.








Outside of influential artists and conceptual ideas, Hultberg’s own diverse background serves as inspiration in itself. Raised in Seoul, Hong Kong, and Taiwan and now living in New York City, Hultberg finds muses in everyday people.

“I think growing up around a variety of cultures and people has made me really interested in and appreciate people as humans and human nature,” said Hultberg.

And of all places to people watch—New York City!

“I love that NYC is diverse and always changing - seasons, trends, 
people. There's a lot of on-going transience, yet maintaining its character,” said Hultberg, “being surrounded by super creative, talented, genuine, yet humble people who are always making life happen for themselves really 
inspires me to work harder on my craft and life.”

Eastern Asia and New York City. People and culture. Humanity and nature Klimt and Schiele. Life and death. Hultberg works with duality, the black and white, but with a flowing, natural style that brings it altogether conceptually and visually. And with "Memento Mori," death has never looked so good.

“Memento Mori” is ongoing until August 7 at Thinkspace Gallery (http://www.thinkspacegallery.com/).

Friday, July 17, 2009

“A Flicker of ‘Your Bright Future’”

Seemingly, I was just another visitor to the Los Angles County Museum of Art this past Tuesday. Just happening to take a tour of the newest exhibition at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum—“Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea.”

As a former intern at the Craft and Folk Art Museum here in Los Angeles and at the Met, it has been a long time since I have taken or given a tour at a museum. So, my current blog for Artillery made for an illuminating experience.

Walking through the Wilshire Blvd. entrance, I noticed a large, orange sign splashed across the top—all in Korean. Later, our tour guide told us the sign played on past Korean propaganda. In English, the sign says “Welcome.”

And how fitting for these emerging Korean contemporary artists. “Your Bright Future” is the first major museum exhibition to solely feature contemporary art from Korea. In the show, the artists play with the idea of miscommunication, but all in good humor.

My tour held a large group of visitors, ranging from giggling pre-teen girls to young European couples, plaid-clad hipster boys to a Korean mother and her son. With this motley crew, we traversed “Your Bright Future,“ examining a house fusion, alien-bright lights, video installations, misleading household items, stuffed animal suits, and apparently unopened art. We were attentive to our guide and careful not to touch the art nor use flash photography.

Just as interesting as what our lecturer had to say was the art of people-watching. Their physical reactions, the ensuing discussion with their fellow museum-goers, their judgment of what was really “art.”

When we stepped into the white room of Bahc Yiso’s electrical lamp-powered work, “Your Bright Future,” I surveyed those around me. Initially, they listened intently to our tour guide. But, as the unnatural light of the room continued to assail our eyes, I saw people slowly began to look down at themselves in this unusual light. Bringing their hands to their face and comparing with each other, they examined the effect of the eerie glow in the room—pale, pink palms were now purple. They seemed fascinated and engrossed.

Yet, as we left to go into the next room, one of the pre-teens confirmed, “This isn’t art.” So, it seemed like the art was lost in translation amidst this otherwise informative and enlightening tour.

Outside of BCAM, Choi Jeong-Hwa’s “HappyHappy” swayed. Long strands of brightly colored plastic goods—salad spinners, baskets, bowls, plates, cups, and balls—hung like garlands from IKEA festivities.

Children and adults alike ran through the leis of plastic. I heard excited chatter and saw flashes of light as friends took pictures together. Little kids giggled, pushing the art into each other. An altogether very different intake of art.

With little information on the art they played within, this light, bright, interactive piece drew the museum-goers in. And, that seems to be art in itself.

“Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea” is at LACMA until September 20 (http://www.lacma.org/art/ExhibFuture.aspx).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Art That Teaches: Cool Globes at Exposition Park"







Sculptural globes align the sidewalks in a still procession, dotting the Rose Garden of Exposition Park. Like Hansel and Gretel dropping breadcrumbs, these spherical works of art in the Cool Globes exhibition have left their round imprints on the national terrain. However, this is no fluffy, fantastical fairy tale story, but searing, sometimes sweaty truth.

Cool Globes is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating people and communities about global warming through its traveling outdoor art exhibit.

“It’s a public art project with a purpose,” said Cool Globes Project Manager Lindsey Guetschow, “It’s not just about the beautiful art, but using art to bring people in and inspire them to take action in their daily lives.”

Since last summer, Cool Globes has sojourned all over the country—from the United States Botanical Garden in Washington D.C. to the Field Museum in Chicago, now the tour makes its Los Angeles debut. The Rose Garden hosts fifty globes, eight of which were made here.

“In each new city we stop at, we engage the community,” said Guetschow. And in collaboration with local residents, one of these globes boasts unlikely artists—students at Manual Arts High School.


Students, shown on above, at the finance-based high school worked alongside the artist-in-residence for Cool Globes, Aprile Boettcher.

Boettcher, a visual effects artists for films such as “Titanic,” Team America: World Police,” and Godzilla, led the students in a trip through art history, teaching them collage techniques of Hannah Höch and Pablo Picasso from the early 1900s. With a bit of background in art, Boettcher then let the students pitch their own visions for the globe.

“I wanted the students to be able to represent themselves,” said Boettcher—a sentiment that you can see on the globe itself. Each student was given a piece of canvas to contribute to the overall sculpture. And of course, Boettcher stayed true to the finance background of the school, allowing the students to also complete the mathematical equations to shape and grid the globe.

Together, Boettcher and the high school students created “Mother Earth,”shown below as courtesy of Boettcher, a sculpture portraying a pregnant Earth holding her bulging womb.







“As an artist, I really hope that the people who will see this will have a greater appreciation for public art and its role in society,” said Boettcher, “I think that beautification and artistic expression are important to the happiness and well-being of mankind.”

Cool Globes is in the Rose Garden of Exposition Park til July 23 (http://www.coolglobes.com/la.php)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"The Escape Exhibition: 'One Week Only' at Jancar Gallery"

Now, you see the art. And in a week, you won’t.








Tucked away on Chung King Road, Jancar Gallery is showing 4th of July “One Week Only,” a large group exhibition curated by Tom Jancar and Mery Lynne McCorkle that features 91 artists from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.

It’s so much art in so little time, yet Jancar Gallery makes it work. Owner Tom Jancar explained to me the tricks up his sleeve, going back to the roots of the gallery.

Up until last summer, Jancar Gallery used to be located in a high-rise on Wilshire Blvd. And magically, their key to the gallery could also open the unused space one floor below. Perfect for “one night only” exhibitions.

“We basically had illegal shows—guerilla shows,” Jancar said, “we were only in there for about three hours. We hung the work an hour before the show and then after, we took it down and filled in the holes.”

For the night, Jancar Gallery hosted exhibits featuring 10-12 artists. Yet, these shows weren’t sleight of hand to the Los Angeles arts scene. These “guerilla shows” summoned hundreds of gallery-goers to the lower space—all for just an exciting, vanishing art act.

Now, “One Week Only” is homage to these past successful escape art exhibitions. With these past feats of installation and art exhibition, Jancar let me in a little secret—perhaps the gallery owner’s code.

“One of the things I learned is that shows don’t have to run for a long time to make an impact,” Jancar said.

So forget Harry Potter, let’s see what Jancar Gallery conjures next.

4th of July “One Week Only” ends today! (http://www.jancargallery.com/exhibitions.php)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

"Art You Can Play: Instruments at Solway Jones"








In the shushed quiet of big, institutional museums, it seems to tick like a metronome—the idea that “art should be seen, not heard.”

Museum-goers seem to explore art in silenced awe. Excessive chatter is frowned upon and touching the art is a definite no-no.

Not at Solway Jones in Chinatown. The current show, Instruments, marches to its own beat.

As I walked through Instruments, I was caught off-guard by the sounds emanating from the art. One piece I found particularly fascinating (and ironic) was made of two clear glass cups and two metronomes. Clinking against the glass, the pendulums of the metronomes swung back and forth to create a light, almost airy sound—music from a regular metronome!

“Our gallery’s program has always been heavily directed towards artists working in different areas of interests besides just making only painting or sculpture,” explained Michael Solway, co-owner of Solway Jones, in an email interview, "Instruments is still in my opinion a sculpture exhibition. Sculptures that make sound.”

In the past, Solway Jones exhibited shows featuring the likes of John Cage and Fluxus artist and musician Benjamin Patterson. For Instruments, Solway knew he wanted to continue exploring the integration of sound and art.

“My intention is to make the viewer part of the experience of making music,” said Solway, “that by looking at instruments or playing them is a music experience, anyone can be a musician.”

My friend and fellow gallery-goer was initially afraid to touch, let alone hit the gong/cymbal piece at Solway Jones. Yet with the clicks and ticks of the art surrounding, she finally struck the art—sounds resonated, adding to the mosaic of noises. And for a second, she became a musician, an artist herself.

Instruments turned the usual way of viewing/admiring art on its head. Rather than revering artists and their handiwork in quiet, static ways, viewers made the existing art/instruments the canvas for their own creations. And seemingly redefined the metronome.

Instruments is running at Solway Jones until August 15 (http://solwayjonesgallery.com).