All posts by Becky Murray

Robert Brandenburg at Gallery 1988

In “Pooh… and Other Sh*t,” Robert Brandenburg brings “hijacked” art to Gallery 1988 in Venice Beach, CA.

As a self-taught artist from Ohio, Brandenburg brings an expansive perspective to viewers. Born in 1954, he paints contemporary works that offer a light repose from the mundane.

His versatile style allows him to incorporate renderings into a variety of works on a variety of mediums. Less art than humor, he creates an entertaining interlude and encourages viewers to recreate everyday scenes in a less than ordinary manner.

Renamed The Bird, Brandenburg alters a metal sign from 1956 used to advertise the Ford Thunderbird. In the original a couple speeds away in the automobile, waving to onlookers. In the re-mastered version, the passenger extends her middle finger to the people standing by. From metal to cardboard, In Mammy Cakes Brandenburg alters a Hostess Cupcake box from a chocolate frosted vanilla cupcake to a white mouthed image mirroring minstrel shows that ran in America from the 1830’s into the mid-1900’s. During these often severely racist performances, white men painted themselves in black face.

To compliment his images, Brandenburg includes brief bios and explanations into the life of his creations. One of his works, Hannah Lecter, features a young girl on a greeting card. Originally, she was eating a tasty piece of chocolate but Brandenburg coated the original snack with a dripping red acrylic paint to make it appear as if she indulges in human flesh.  The title and corresponding story names her as Hannibal Lecter’s love child. He also alters several Norman Rockwell paintings depicting the ‘ideal’ family life of 1940’s America including one from Rockwell’s “Four Freedom” series entitled Freedom from Want. Brandenburg redubs it Freedom from Stress and replaces the original turkey with a glass pipe, beers, and whiskey explaining, “experience suggests that the happy family is going to need a little more than turkey to keep things running smoothly for the rest of the day.”

Brandenburg brings a fresh look to “normal” images by incorporating himself into a variety of mediums at his new solo exhibition. By redesigning iconic images, he urges society to reexamine omnipresent sights that do not always reflect truth.

“Pooh… and Other Sh*t” hijacked art by Robert Brandenburg at Gallery 1988 Venice
Dates: January 7 – 28, 2011
Hours: Wed – Sun: 11AM – 6PM

Rotofugi – A Gallery and Toy Store!

I Still Feel YouChicago, IL – Rotofugi, home to toys and art. One of the best venues for pop surrealism a mere mile and a half away from my current home. The charming, light-filled space greets visitors with cheery figures by Kidrobot, Frank Kozik, Tokidoki, and others. Additionally, they have apparel, plush toys, journals, and a variety of knickknacks. It’s easy to lose track of time, awed by all the clever and intricate crafts. The gallery, with constantly changing exhibits, is located towards the back of the space.

Two artists, Jeremiah Ketner and Shannon Bonatakis compose the most recent exhibit, on view through December 4, 2011. Both artists highlight femininity in their work in a style that incorporates soft brush strokes on medium sized canvases to create an ephemeral quality. However, their works diverge on all other areas.

Ketner paints whimsical images that transport you to a serene oceanic world. His cartoonish pixies follow the style of Japanese anime. Ketner says “everything is small and round” in Japan and his subjects reflect that notion. Bonatakis uses a similarly soft method of portraiture, focusing on young women. However, her characters are not hybrids of fantasy. The long sleek figures lack the sense of whimsy found in Ketner’s work. Bonatakis’ images instead, incorporate a sense of macabre. Although blood and severed body parts confront the viewer, they do not disrupt the scene. The characters have an uncanny acceptance of their fate and seem empowered by their imperfections or the fate bestowed on them. Resignation abounds as they penetrate the viewer with a lustful resonance. Eerily, these images instill the viewer with a sense of serenity.

This is Bonatakis’ first show at Rotofugi. She currently resides in Denver and is active in galleries across the US.

This is Ketner’s third show at Rotofugi. He has shown at over 50 galleries across North America. His characters grace the walls of Nordstroms throughout the country. Ketner also makes figures and plush toys. He lives in Chicago with his two sons, and together they explore the city.

Rotofugi Gallery is located at 2780 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago, IL 606 They are open between 11 am and 7 pm, 7 days a week.

Into My ArmsJelly Stroll

I Still Feel YouAll It Takes

Confronted with Castration: Edward Kienholz’s "Five Car Stud"

Edward Kienholz’s Five Car Stud depicts a horrific scene of racial violence during the civil rights era. Actually, the term horrific does nothing to illustrate the nauseating effects of this life-size interactive work currently on display at the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art.

The piece is set up in a darkened room with a sandy dirt floor.  Five cars form a circle, illuminating the focal point of the work with their headlights.  Life-sized, white male figures stand next to their cars menacingly wielding batons and other weapons.  One man holds a shotgun at his side.  Clown-like masks and sagging skin cover their faces. The eyes are hollow and insipid, yet smirk at inflicting pain upon another human.

The sense of entitlement emanates not only from their facial expressions, but also from the positions of the bodies and the looming presence of each of these men.  Garbed in jeans with the ruddy faces of moonshine alcoholics, they abuse and castrate another man, lassoing his foot like cattle, simply due to the color of his skin.

The victim lies in the center of the scene flanked by two men gripping his arms.  Instead of casting an entire figure, Kienholz installs a rectangular trough in place of his torso.  He filled the trough with water and six wooden alphabet blocks, two of the same letter, floating around, and leaving the viewer to piece together their meaning.

Kienholz spent three years working on this project between 1969 and 1972 during the height of civil rights era when activists had reached some victories for desegregation.  However, through his depiction viewers realize that prejudice and unfounded bias continue to infiltrate society.

Kienholz is best known for using found objects to create jarring sculptures that comment on social issues within the United States.  He created this work shortly before he relocated to Germany where it first appeared publicly.  A private collector acquired the work and for 40 years it remained in storage.  Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the first to display the work in the United States.

I do not exaggerate the gravity of this work. Guards stand at the doorway advising parents against allowing their children to witness it.

The pictures cannot convey the deeply unsettling feeling evoked by the piece. Perhaps it is the blatant intolerance, the flagrant violence, or simply the knowledge that things have not changed enough.  Whatever the reason, whatever the effects, Kienholz has created a penetrating work that shocks viewers with its content but awes with the undeniable skill and ingenuity it took to mastermind.