ART AT CAFE GABRIELA (IN THE COURTYARD MARRIOTT BUILDING) 988 BROADWAY, OAKLAND, CA
Enjoy a Friday Night Out With Us!
Come join us for complimentary wine and food at Café Gabriela, 988 Broadway, Oakland, CA (between 9th and 10th Streets). Featured Bay Area artist, Kay Rodriques, will be in attendance to discuss her work with you on this, her closing night. Enjoy the reception, view the paintings and support the artist by making a purchase for your collection. For more information about Kay and Café Gabriela, please visit:
Here’s that troublesome question again: How and why is some art labeled “outsider?”
What is this art and its creators outside of?
If an artist has no formal art training does that automatically make his/her art outsider art?
The phrase, outsider art, is every bit as troublesome as the term, “the other” that is often bandied about in scholarly works. As one reads Kate Withstandley’s, The Outsider Renaissance (click on the link to access the article), certain questions arise: Who determines these labels? Are these art works outsider, intuitive, not fine art? Why not simply call them art?
There is nothing “outsider” about the last three pieces below nor is there anything “insider” about the two above. The only difference between the two sets of paintings is that the first is by prominent Bay Area artist, Nathan Olivera, while the second is by what the art world labels outsider artists. None is better or worse than the other so why differentiate? I might very well have posted some of Picasso’s paintings, sculptures and potteries and asked the same question with an added twist, “If you didn’t know who the artist was, would/wouldn’t you call this outsider art?”
Outsider Inside, Insider Outside
New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat was at one time considered an outsider, that is, until he became a part of Warhol’s world. Basquiat, genius that he was, knew that he needed exposure and so, he actively tried to get inside Warhol’s world. Would he have become an insider artist if Warhol had excluded him? Would the art establishment, the critics, museums and galleries have taken him as seriously as they did if he had not been a part of Warhol’s crowd? Left on his own, would the art world have realized that Basquiat deserved to be noticed the way an artist like Picasso deserved to be noticed?
Mekking Monkey Face
What price did Jean-Michel Basquiat pay to move from being an outsider to an insider artist? Was this Warhol monkey face portrait, for example, part of the price he paid to become famous? In Jamaica, “mekking monkey face” is simply clowning around and making silly faces. It is the pastime of children. The name of the game notwithstanding, I have yet to see a Jamaican child mek monkey face so that (s)he actually looks like a monkey. Their clowning around has more to do with mouth and eye gestures and distortions. What’s more, I haven’t seen any child use props to mek monkey face like Basquiat and Warhol did in this photograph. Add the out-sized ears to the distorted eyes, nose and mouth and you get a transformation from human to animal.
Whose idea was it that Basquiat strike this pose? Was it his? Was it Warhol’s? Were photographer and subject in collusion? Is one being coerced by the other to make/take the photograph? For what reason did sitter and photographer create this image? Certainly this cannot be an attempt by Basquiat to be taken seriously by the art world. Noticed, maybe, but taken seriously? I doubt it. Yet another question to consider is this: Did Warhol photograph anyone else in this particular pose? If not, why? Why Jean-Michel Basquiat and not Mick Jagger, Edie Sedgwick or any of his other sitters?
This photograph is the only one I’ve seen where Warhol’s sitter strikes this pose. Why this sitter and why this pose? Is Basquiat, maybe Warhol as well, making a statement, confronting the status quo? Are they deliberately drawing attention to Basquiat’s status as an outsider times two in the art world? Whatever the case, the portrait does not sit well. (See my previous post, “Mammy and Myths: Oh Andy!” for more on Warhol and Basquiat and the making of myths.)
Note: The large Olivera painting is the property of Stanford University. You can view it in their contemporary art gallery at the Cantor Museum.
While working on her paintings in the old Djerassi barn a month ago, artist Nicole Buffett created these colored balls and placed them in shafts of dappled sunlight on the floor. The spheres are made of packed earth, grass, gravel and pigment and are meant to “embody the serenity and power” that Buffet felt while working in the barn. She calls this piece, The Guardians, meant as it was, to guard her paintings as they sat outside overnight.
Artist: Nicole Buffett (Bay Area artist)
Title: The Guardians (created May 2013)
Location: Inside the Old Barn (at Djerassi/SMIP Ranch, Santa Cruz Mountains)
Description: This piece reveals how quickly light moves. It becomes a meditative practice as one tries to follow the light beams, constantly moving the spheres to keep up with the squares of light.
This is a temporary piece. The spheres are fragile and may leave pigment on fingers when it’s wet out. Visitors may pick them up and gently move them into shafts of light, or place them back into the urn at the far end of the room.
Should you happen to visit the old barn during the long summer months, you will be treated to a visual delight of busy sunbeams dancing across the floor and along the walls. With the installation of The Guardian, you can have the additional experience of watching the sunlight move across the floor, heightening the colors of the individual balls.
If you stop by on a foggy day – as a group of visitors did recently – your experience will be different, less heightened: The colors of the spheres are totally dependent on the natural lighting derived from the sun. That is the nature of the piece. It is transitory and is defined by an uncontrolled light source that helps to determine how the viewer experiences the work. This installation, like the rest of Djerassi’s outdoor art, will eventually disintegrate. Catch it if you can.
I’ve written about Djerassi and its transitory art collection in previous articles. Here is one of those posts. The springtime photographs of the sun drenched landscape (plus one taken from inside the old barn), should give you an idea of the feel and intensity of the Bay Area sunlight. There is no need for artificial lighting in the barn, at least not during the day.