A Brief History of Graffiti (2015) – the documentary

GraffitiI remember a time when graffiti was considered vandalism and caused alarm among the officials! It has been around forever as the documentary A Brief History of Graffiti, on Netflix, reminds us. Art historian Richard Clay takes on a brief tour of graffiti from 30,000 year old cave art in Burgundy, France to contemporary street art. He covers prehistoric art, Roman art in Lyons and Pompeii; he talks about the proliferation of political posters by les Communards during the French Revolution and ends, of course with a discussion of billboard and video advertising, and street art in major cities today. When traveling, we look for the street art in the cities we are visiting and are always amazed and thrilled by the variety, intensity, politics, humour and the uniqueness of the graffiti artists. I am particularly fond of stencil art. Other related Netflix documentaries are: International Street Art, Saving Banksy and How to Sell a Banksy. Exit Through the Gift Shop was another excellent doc.


Gerhard Richter – a book and a movie

Gerhard Richter: Forty years of Painting by Robert Storr is the exhibition catalogue for a MOMA retrospective of Richter’s work, covering the years 1960-2000. Lots of good illustrations of his wide-ranging oeuvre – portraits, landscapes, photography, photo realism, and Gerhard Richterabstractions. The book concludes with a very interesting interview with the artist who was raised in East Berlin, where he muses on his place in art history and on the act of painting. He has some very interesting things to say about the viewer of art and abstract art. He hates Kandinsky, for example, and collage. Gerhard Richter Painting is a documentary made 10 years after the MOMA catalogue. It covers his whole body of work including archival interviews but concentrates on his squeegee created abstract paintings, which I love. 


I have been a lifelong fan of fiber arts. Yarn, the Scandinavian documentary, is currently available on Netflix. The artists, Olek, Tilde Bjorfors of Cirkus Cirkor, Tina Thorudottir and Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam knit and crotchet their fabulous creations in manyYarn the doc locations – Iceland, Rome, Havana, New York, Barcelona, Berlin, Nova Scotia, etc. There are instances of yarn bombing bringing to mind the book Yarn Bombing by Leeanne Prain, the daughter of my friend Connie Prain. Cirkus Cirkor is amazing! The prose poem “Where it Begins”, written and read by Barbara Kingsolver, weaves together the sections. A beautiful, inspiring documentary that deserves several viewings.

Art 21: Season 7

Art 21 is such a great TV series! Art 21 is a PBS documentary series that features contemporary artists who mainly work in the US, Europe and Latin America. It is a great opportunity to see artists at work in their studios or in galleries, discussing their practice. They are all experimenting whether they are painting, making sculptures, video, installations or environmental art. They all have a BIG vision and are pretty successful at realizing it. Through Art 21 we get to see inspiring and some downright amazing art. Season 7 Art21_s7-guide-coveris excellent and features artists that are socially engaged. “In locations as diverse as a Bronx public housing project, a military testing facility in the Nevada desert, a jazz festival in Sweden, and an activist neighborhood in Mexico, the artists reveal intimate and personal insights into their lives and creative processes.” I loved the work of all 12 artists in season 7.  Thomas Hirschhorn, for me, was particularly inspiring. Hirschhorn says that when he looks at a work of art he asks 2 questions. ‘Where do you stand?’ and ‘What do you want?’ I think these are excellent questions which I have now adopted. The upcoming Season 8 includes the work of Vancouver artists – that will be fabulous. Can’t wait to see it.


Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow: Anselm Kiefer

Before Anselm Keifer left La Ribaute, his 86 acre art studio in an abandoned silk factory in Barjack, France, Sophie Fiennes made the documentary “Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow”. This is a wonderfully inspiring movie that takes us on a tour of the property – underground tunnels, buildings, art installations, paintings, giant concrete structures, etc. We get the opportunity to see Keifer and his assistants at work on a number Keifer filmof pieces – all wonderful. Keifer built a house for each large painting where the art can “explode into the world.” We also get to eavesdrop on an interview where he describes how he created this space out of rubble and explains some of his philosophy. This is a beautifully shot movie and La Ribaute must be a wonderful place to visit. From the Internet I learned that after the theft of some iron works, Keifer packed up some 110 trucks with art work and moved them to his new gargantuan studio outside Paris. Apparently plans are underway to donate the property to the French state.This would be a really great place to see!

Agnes Martin: YouTube videos

At 88, Agnes Martin, in one YouTube video says:agnes-martin-2 “I think of nothing but painting. The older I get, the more I like to paint. It grows on you.” I’m in love! My painting life has taken me from boisterous, poly-chromatic painting in oil to much more subdued, pastel and white painting with acrylic, keeping it as light as I can. So while I was waiting for 2 large white acrylic skins to cure, I sat down, cat in lap, to view Agnes Martin videos on YouTube. The playlist has a whopping 146 videos, probably a week’s worth of viewing. The interviews with Martin, although brief, are inspiring. We get to see a lot of her art, which even if you are viewing them on a big screen TV, are still hard to see. The interview with Arne Glimcher, her long time gallery representative, is excellent – must read his book. Martin’s advice to not let ideas interfere, that too much thought makes inspiration disappear, is too true. How many times do we mess things up by making them too complicated? So next week I will watch more Agnes Martin videos and pick up a biography.