A representative from Madame Tussauds puts the final touches on a stunningly lifelike wax figure of Spanish tennis ace Rafael Nadal, unveiled at London’s Regents Park on 5/23/12. The real “Rafa” is currently defending his title at the French Open in Paris, where he hopes to break Bjorn Borg’s record of six singles championships.
(Photo: Andrew Cowie / AFP/Getty Images)
I was riveted by this rarely seen Rembrandt painting, Portrait of the Artist (c.1663-1665), which was on special loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from the Kenwood House in London through the end of last week. It harbors an expression as enigmatic and difficult to characterize as that of the Mona Lisa smile: weary yet intense, elusive and omniscient. And what of the circles that seem to frame the image in a cryptic geometric pattern? More mystery from the grand master of the Dutch Golden Age…or as The New Yorker put it: “We see what he sees and, by the sorcery of paint, as he sees — with a consciousness both outward and inward, alive in a moment forever.”
In keeping with the street art/strange art theme I’ve been drawn to lately, I came across an English artist with the aka of Slinkachu, whose work kind of overlaps that of another British artist I previously wrote about, Ben Wilson, in its idiosyncrasy. Slinkachu (actually a blog title, as the former art director doesn’t like to reveal his real name) modifies tiny human figures taken from model-train sets and places many of them in unexpected settings, and, as with Wilson, turns your notions of the most mundane realities upside down.
Easily overlooked (and designed that way), the transient tableaus are usually destroyed by the elements (or unknowingly stomped upon), though some are absconded with by passersby…if they see them, that is. (Photographed close up, the miniaturist “installations” look like worlds unto themselves; viewed from afar, they’re as insignificant as ants on a molehill. Most of the figures are no larger than two inches.) Imagination is definitely on display in the pieces shown here, of which I find difficult to pick a favorite. The island made out of an abandoned tennis ball? The skateboarder inside an orange peel? Rowing in spilt milk?
Unconventionally creative, Slinkachu’s mini-portrayals have dotted the landscapes of several cities in Europe, and harbor an almost existentialist sentiment, according to the artist. “The feeling of being ignored and overlooked, of feeling small, is a universal one,” he told the UK’s Observer last year. “It is as easy for us to fall through cracks in the pavement in a big city as it is for the ‘little people’.”
For now, photographs of the now-you-see-’em-now-you-don’t creations appear in an exhibition titled Material Matters at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London through July of next year.
A man strides atop a giant jigsaw of a self-portrait of artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), spread out in an area measuring over 3,000 square feet, in Nuremberg, Germany, 5/3/12. (For the record, the full title of the original painting is Self-Portrait at Twenty-Eight Years Old Wearing a Coat with Fur Collar…whew!) The huge creation, composed of 1,023 (oversized) pieces, will be reassembled in Moscow’s Red Square next month, in recognition of the historic relationship between Russia and Germany. It’s not the first undertaking of its kind in the painter’s birthplace of Nuremberg: a similarly massive project that recreated Dürer’s Portrait of a Young Venetian Woman
was constructed in 2005.
(Photo: Timm Schamberger / AP)
In her latest public-art project, entitled “Ordinary People,” sculptor Christel Lechner has situated some 80 life-sized and life-like concrete figures at various locations in Hamm, Germany’s Maximilian Park – much to the delight of surprised passerby, many of whom have already encountered Lechner’s creations at other parks, squares, even the rooftops of buildings, throughout the region.
Her work sort of follows in the footsteps of another artist I recall, Duane Hanson (1925-1996), a celebrated sculptor associated with the “photorealist” movement, and whose pieces (like Tourists II from 1988, pictured below), apart from their startling realism, were often wry commentaries on contemporary society. Somewhat of a quiet phenomenon, Hanson’s connection with the public was loudly borne out by the Whitney Museum’s still-unsurpassed attendance record (297,000) for his solo exhibition there in 1978.
Some argue that these versions of reality art aren’t really art at all, but more like borderline kitsch; as always, it remains in the eye of the beholder…
[Interesting blog piece here about the restoration of one of Hanson's signature works, Janitor (1973), currently on view at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.]