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John-Paul Stonard

(b Bradford, July 22, 1951).

English painter. He studied at the Bradford School of Art (1968–71) and then in London at Goldsmiths’ College (1971–4) and the Slade School of Fine Art (1974–6). In his early work he painted single figures in a manner that suggested extreme psychological states. His use of charcoal and intensely chromatic acrylic paint, which he makes himself, give his painting a distinctively rich, scorched appearance. Bevan developed his psychological portraiture throughout the 1980s and 90s, often working in series on individual subjects. The Prophet (1982; Munich, Staatsgal. Mod. Kst), is a large portrait of a handcuffed male with a pair of open scissors lodged in his head. The psychic state it represents is so extreme, it seems, that it can only be represented metaphorically. The social psychology of his work became more explicit in The Meeting (2.94×2.85 m, 1992; see 1993 exh. cat.), a painting of nine male figures (distributed over six canvases) singing in a mechanical, disconnected fashion. The underlying existentialism of this work recalls the paintings of Francis Bacon, Bevan’s obsession with open mouths providing another point of comparison. The tense frontal aspects also bring to mind the Expressionistic portraiture of Edvard Munch, the pose embodying states of anxiety, introspection and despair. Toward the end of the 1990s Bevan stripped his images to a bare minimum, producing a disturbing series of paintings in which disembodied heads float like scarred, trussed balloons, for instance ...

Article

Camara Dia Holloway

[Smikle, David Edward]

(b Queens, NY, Nov 25, 1953).

African American photographer. Bey was born and raised in the neighborhood of Jamaica, in Queens, New York City. His interest in photography was cemented by viewing the now infamous exhibition, Harlem on My Mind, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1969. He studied at the School of Visual Arts during 1976–8, later earning his BFA from Empire State College, State University of New York in 1990, followed by his MFA from Yale University School of Art in 1993.

Bey launched his career in 1975 with the Harlem, USA series, following in the footsteps of street photographers who found the predominantly African American community a compelling subject. This series of black-and-white portraits became the subject of Bey’s first solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979.

During the 1980s, Bey continued making portraits expanding his terrain beyond Harlem. Sensitive to the politics of representing African Americans, he developed strategies to equalize the photographic encounter. Bey began using a large-format view camera on a tripod that he set up in the street. He established a dialogue with his sitters and gifted them with a print of their portrait. This was facilitated by his discovery of 4×5 Polaroid positive/negative Type 55 film that yielded virtually instant prints....

Article

Susan Kart

(b Mbarara, 1963).

Ugandan photographer, film maker, and installation artist of Indian descent, active in the UK. Bhimji was born in Uganda to Indian parents. The family fled Uganda to England in 1972 due to President Idi Amin’s expulsion of all Asians and Asian-Ugandans from the country along with seizure of their property and businesses as part of his ‘economic war’ on Asia. Bhimji studied art at Goldsmiths College and the Slade School of Art in London and her photographic work primarily consists of close-up, sometimes abstracted glimpses of seemingly abandoned spaces, objects, and landscapes. Bhimji’s work focuses on India and Uganda, which are treated as almost anthropomorphic subjects that appear restless, unfinished, abandoned, or frozen in her photographs, films, and film stills. Bhimji was one of four shortlisted finalists for the Turner Prize in 2007, and her work has been exhibited alongside such artists as El Anatsui, António Olé, Yinka Shonibare, and ...

Article

John-Paul Stonard

(b Barbados, May 26, 1959).

American sculptor and painter. He studied at the California Institute of the Arts (1982) and the Whitney Independent Studies Program, New York (1985). He had his first solo exhibition at Artists Space, New York (1984), and subsequently showed regularly in America and Europe. Bickerton emerged in New York in the early 1980s as part of the group of artists termed ‘Neo-Geo’, along with Jeff Koons, Peter Halley and Meyer Vaisman. Their work was characterized by a rejection of the neo-expressionist trends in painting and, in Bickerton’s case, by the appropriation of images and labels from consumer culture. His use of popular imagery, though most obviously indebted to Pop art, was influenced also by conceptual and Minimal art; because of its critique of consumer society, it has also been termed ‘commodity art’. In the early 1980s Bickerton made paintings on masonite boards that contained single words, such as ‘Susie’ and ‘God’, in extravagantly ornate lettering as ironic reflections that foreshadowed his later criticisms of American society. These developed into the works for which he became known: wall-mounted black containers, riveted together and covered with corporate logos. Labelled either ...

Article

Carol Magee

(b Bulawayo, 1959).

Zimbabwean sculptor. Bickle studied at Durban University and Rhodes University. She showed extensively in Zimbabwe in the 1980s and exhibited in India, Sweden and New Zealand in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Active in the arts in Bulawayo, she was a founding member of its Visual Artists’ Association. Her pieces are philosophical, both specifically in that she cites Foucault and Yourcenar, and generically in that they comment on the human condition: on hopes, dreams, conflicts and fantasies. Made of multiple manufactured and natural materials, her simple forms speak to complex situations, as seen in A Carta de Gaspar Veloso I, in which writings on parchment are used in conjunction with maps to evoke colonial histories. Her work is in both private and public collections in the US, Britain and Europe.

Art from the Frontline: Contemporary Art from Southern Africa (Glasgow, 1990), p. 125 H. Lieros: ‘Earth, Water, Fire: Recent Works by Berry Bickle’, ...

Article

Simon Njami

(b Douala, 1962).

Cameroonian painter, sculptor and installation artist, active in France. He moved to Paris in 1974 and studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts; he began exhibiting in the late 1980s, showing in France, Switzerland, Spain and Greece, among other places. Unlike many African artists living in Europe, he never felt dislocated. His sculptures, canvases and installation pieces combine all manner of found objects and other material that he manufactures himself. With these he comments on issues of representation and artistic practice in the Western world, at the same time evoking the presence and/or absence of humans, and therefore memory. The objects he uses are symbolic as well: eggs signify renewal, for instance. His compositions are simple and striking, as is his use of colour. In one work, for example, a ‘mummified’ figure appears on each side panel in the same thick white paint as the ground, holding a red rose against a metal plate. Against the black centre panel is an orange dress, under which are white flowers....

Article

Morgan Falconer

(b Chicago, IL, Oct 20, 1953).

American painter, sculptor and performance artist. Bidlo was educated at the University of Illinois and at Teachers’ College at Columbia University in New York. He shot to notoriety in 1982 with his first solo show, Jack the Dripper at Peg's Place (Long Island City, NY, P.S.1). Part exhibition, part performance, it was based on Hans Namuth’s film of Jackson Pollock painting in 1950. Bidlo exhibited a series of remarkably accurate copies of Pollock’s drip paintings and alongside these, restaged the painter’s famous gesture of peeing into Peggy Guggenheim’s fire grate. Subsequently, Bidlo mounted a number of performances which led to him being understood by some as a performance artist, yet he is now more widely known for his exact replicas of art central to the modernist canon, a project he began in 1982. Copying work to exact dimensions, using only reproductions for reference, Bidlo commonly chose works central to the mythology of creation of individual genius. ...

Article

Chin-tao Wu

Over the two decades straddling the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, biennials and art fairs mushroomed across the globe. While art fairs have a specific commercial interest, which biennials do not necessarily possess, both are institutional structures designed to display art works on an impressively large, transnational scale. They comprise often hundreds, if not thousands, of distinct exhibits ranging from painting and sculpture in traditional modes to avant-garde installations and post-modern films and videos. While biennials and art fairs both have histories dating back many decades, the progressive globalisation of the contemporary art world since the 1980s profoundly modified these two means of exhibiting art in the public arena, and, particularly in the case of biennials, radically re-orientated their forms as well as their functions. Whether or not such changes have been accompanied by a measure of democratisation or by a meaningful re-alignment in the power structures of cultural politics, as has sometimes been maintained, remains an open question....

Article

Aurélie Verdier

(b Antwerp, March 19, 1946).

Belgian photographer and installation artist. He studied theatre and cinema in the late 1960s, creating a fruitful ground for his future installations and later dividing his work into four categories with the aim of blurring the frontiers of art and social reality. One such category, ‘Transformation–Installation’ was rooted in a spoof governmental pamphlet written by the artist in 1979 announcing the bankruptcy of art: he argued that art was unnecessary since it was inherently non-functional. From that point on, this ironic point of view was built into his recreations of everyday environments injected with incongruous elements, as in Driving School Z (1979; see 1998 exh. cat, p. 44), an installation in an Antwerp gallery that recreated the soulless premises referred to in the title. At once bleak and dramatic in its painstaking reconstruction, it contained furniture from a real driving school as a way of blurring the distinction between art and reality. Bijl’s polished installations have an unsettling atmosphere, as they lack any sense of human presence. Tackling issues of mass culture and its vehicles, he reconstructed some institutions in tableaux that mixed the artificiality of highly stylized objects with the tangible reality of everyday artefacts. By so doing, he questioned the identity and meaning of environments once they have been relocated to an institutionalized art context. In ...

Article

John-Paul Stonard

(b Birmingham, September 25, 1970).

English photographer and video artist. Billingham graduated from the University of Sunderland in 1994 and in the same year took part in his first group exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery, London. The series of photographs for which he has become known shows the activities of his family at home. Taken over a period of years beginning in 1990 and initially intended as source material for paintings, these photographs are a stark, painful and often humorous documentation of the emotional, sometimes violent relationship of his parents and brother. They are noted for the extraordinary sympathy with which they explore their subjects and the domestic environment. Both the black-and-white and colour prints are mounted on aluminium, unframed, and untitled, suggesting that they are to be seen as a series rather than as isolated images. The images were published together for the first time in book form in 1996. In the following year he won the Citibank Photography Prize and was included in the exhibition ...

Article

Deborah Cullen

(b Los Angeles, CA, Aug 12, 1933).

African American filmmaker, sculptor, printmaker and archivist of African American culture. Camille Billops received her BA from California State College and her MFA from the City College of New York. A visual artist, filmmaker and archivist, Billops’s darkly humorous prints and sculpture have been exhibited internationally, including at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design, the New Museum and the Bronx Museum, New York; the Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Clark College, Atlanta University; the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia, Cali, Colombia; Gallerie Akhenaton, Cairo, Egypt; the American Center, Karachi, Pakistan; and the American Cultural Center, Taipei, Taiwan. Billops received a Percent for Art commission in New York and was a long-time member of Robert Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop (PMW), traveling to establish the first summer printmaking workshop in Asilah, Morocco, with the PMW delegation.

As a filmmaker, Billops earned a National Endowment for the Arts award. Her films have been shown on public television and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. She collaborated with photographer James Van Der Zee (...

Article

Xu Bing  

Melissa Chiu

(b Chongqing, 1955).

Chinese installation artist . Xu Bing spent much of his childhood in Beijing where his parents were professors at Beijing University. He said that being surrounded by books during this formative period in his life gave him an intense interest in them. Xu studied printmaking at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing (1987). One of Xu’s most memorable early works is Tian Shu ( A Book from the Sky , 1987–91), which was created during the 1985 New Wave Movement in China—a period of new-found freedom for artistic experimentation. Tian Shu consisted of reams of paper printed with Chinese characters, each one in some way incorrect, so that the cumulative effect is a library of nonsensical words. The labour needed to create this art work was substantial, taking the artist nearly four years to complete carving the individual characters into woodblocks. The reams of printed paper were exhibited in three different ways: as traditional hand-bound books, suspended large scrolls, and wall posters. ...

Article

Bio Art  

Suzanne Anker

From Anatomical studies to landscape painting to the Biomorphism of Surrealism, the biological realm historically provided a significant resource for numerous artists. More recently, Bio Art became a term referring to intersecting domains that comprise advances in the biological sciences and their incorporation into the plastic arts. Of particular importance in works of Bio Art is to summon awareness of the ways in which the accelerating biomedical sciences alter social, ethical and cultural values in society.

Coming to the fore in the early 1990s Bio Art is neither media specific nor locally bounded. It is an international movement with practitioners in such regions as Europe, the US, Russia, Australia and the Americas. Several subgenres of Bio Art exist within this overarching term:

(i) Artists who employ the iconography of the 20th and 21st century sciences, including molecular and cellular genetics, transgenically altered living matter and reproductive technologies as well as the diverse fields of neuroscience. All traditional media such as painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking and drawing are employed to convey novel ways of representing life forms. Images of chromosomes, the double helix, magnetic resonance imaging body scans and neuroanatomy comprise this iconography. The molecular underpinnings of the living world have also become visible through high technological instrumentation when artists incorporate such pictorialisations as part of their practice. Representations span both genotypic variations and phenotypic ones. Artists include Suzanne Anker (...

Article

Courtney Gerber

(b New York, Oct 29, 1946).

American video and installation artist. Birnbaum received her BA in architecture from Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, PA in 1969 and a BFA in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1973. She first engaged with video at the New School of Social Research in New York and in 1976 she received a certificate in Video/Electronic Editing from the New School’s Video Study Center of Global Village. Considered a second-generation video artist, her production critically responds to and expands upon the theory and practice of first-generation video artists such as Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman and Dan Graham (see Video art). The work of Birnbaum and her contemporaries was especially informed by their predecessors’ experimentation with the Kodak PortaPak (c. 1967) and the types of video art that emerged from the first generation’s exploration of the media in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Of these types, two of the most prevalent were videos rooted in performance art, which focused on the self and the body, and work that assessed the actual media of television by attempting to create less commercial, alternative forms of it such as public access cable television (...

Article

John-Paul Stonard

(b Nantes, Oct 22, 1956).

French painter and printmaker. He began studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Reunes, in 1974, obtaining his diploma in 1979. His work of the 1980s was part of a wider effort to reassess the role of figurative painting, challenging the popularity of abstraction and conceptualism. His focus on strong figurative imagery can be compared with the work of Georg Baselitz in Germany or Julian Schnabel in the USA. During this decade he made many works on torn poster surfaces, on which he painted images of heavy figures moving clumsily through landscapes, emphasizing a crude monumentality, as in Untitled (3×4 m, 1985; Aachen, Neue Gal.). The supports used in these works recall those employed by the Nouveau Réaliste artists known as affichistes, who also worked with torn posters using a technique known as décollage. During the 1980s and 1990s Blais’s work underwent a simplification both of form and palette, with the sometimes grotesque humour of his earlier figures exchanged for a more lyrical, suggestive style. These images were often rendered in black and white on increasingly regular surfaces; ...

Article

Michelle Yun

(b New York, Feb 5, 1960).

American multimedia artist, curator, and writer. Blake received a BA from Bard College, Annadale-on-Hudson, NY, in 1982 and an MFA from the California Institute of Arts in Valencia in 1984. Upon graduation he moved to San Francisco where he worked as a curator at New Langton Arts, San Francisco, until his return to New York in 1996. Most notable of his curated exhibitions was In a Different Light, at the University Art Museum, Berkeley, in 1995, the first museum exhibition to examine the influence of lesbian and gay artists on contemporary art. In 2003 Blake became the founding Chair of the International Center of Photography/Bard Masters Program in Advanced Photographic Studies at the International Center for Photography in New York.

Blake’s performances, installations, and curated exhibitions have consistently tackled issues relating to sexuality, race, and representation. In his youth the artist was influenced by Joseph Cornell, and early sculptures such as ...

Article

Charles J. Semowich

(b New York City, May 13, 1949).

American abstract painter. Bleckner received a BA in 1971 from New York University, where he studied with Chuck Close. He completed the MFA in 1973 at the California Institute of Arts. There Minimalism and conceptual art dominated among the instructors. In 1974 he returned to New York and set up a studio in SoHo. In 1975 he was included in a group show at the Paula Cooper Gallery and in the Whitney Biennial. In 1978 he joined fellow artists David Salle and Julian Schnabel by exhibiting at the Mary Boone Gallery. At the time he was producing striped paintings that were very different from the luminous paintings he produced later.

When his work is non-representational it often incorporates visual optical effects with themes related to loss and sadness. Another aspect of his work has been the use of identifiable forms that function as non-objective elements. His work has often related to investigations of light combined with emotionality and Romanticism. Floral paintings represent the transience of beauty and the ephemeral nature of life. From the 1980s his work was related to themes of loss and memory. Often he addressed the subject of AIDS but not through direct representation. Bleckner favoured symbolic imagery and forms that seem to change focus. He noted, ‘Whether it’s anatomical, medical, illustrational, or metaphoric, I’m trying to figure out some plausible way that things work or don’t work, to look for some meaning through the language that I’ve chosen to speak.’ His signature works have been likened to cellular forms in mutation and glimpses of images that remain elusive. By blurring the painted surfaces, his subjects appear indistinct. For example, allusion to protein molecules can result from a ring of flowers. In ...

Article

Bénédicte Martin

(b 1939).

French art dealer. Blondel became active as an art dealer in Paris in the late 1960s, and his high-profile gallery in the Marais district closed in December 2014. Blondel is best remembered for restoring attention, in the market and in the scholar community, to figurative painters from between the two world wars such as Tamara de Lempicka, Aleksandr Yakovlev, and Bernard Boutet de Monvel (1881–1949). Blondel was also interested in the applied arts, dealing for instance in Jean-Jacques Ruhlmann furniture and Gallé glass, when few collectors were interested in these objects. After studying architecture, Blondel became keenly interested in art, developing a special fascination with Hector Guimard, the Art Nouveau architect and furniture designer who famously created the iconic Parisian Métro entrances. In 1966 Blondel’s passion inspired him to open his first gallery, the Galerie des quatre vents (Gallery of Four Winds), in the sixth arrondissement of Paris. His intention at the time was to re-value forgotten artists from the first half of the 20th century. Due to public indifference, many paintings and objects from this period were very accessibly priced. Demand for such objects was very low, and a functioning market for this niche hardly existed. At the same time, Blondel and Laurent Sully Jaulmes began an urban photography project, which they pursued between ...

Article

(b Los Angeles, CA, July 11, 1951).

American sculptor. Bloom studied at the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, with John Baldessari, Robert Irwin, and James Lee Byars. In 1974 Bloom moved to Amsterdam; she later divided her time between New York and Berlin. She became known for her installations, through which she questioned the relationship between vision and desire. In several groups of works she uses photographic images of parapsychological events to bring issues of the uncanny and unconscious into the realm of the viewers’ perception and reception of art. Absence, which establishes the conditions for desire, is symbolized by photographs of seances, UFOs, or infrared images. The photographic medium enhances the effect of historical record, while highlighting the absence inherent in the attempt to document events and objects that do not exist. In a well-known work, The Collection: The Reign of Narcissism (mixed-media installation, 1989), Bloom meticulously recreated a very bourgeois interior with furnishings and accessories to examine the home and how it structures our understanding of ourselves and the world. Also, in an ironic take on artistic identity, the space was filled with objects self-glorifying the person and accomplishments of a fictive ‘Barbara Bloom’. In dealing with the home, the familiar or the native (...

Article

Mark Allen Svede

(b Riga, Sept 6, 1943).

Latvian painter, stage designer and graphic designer. After a childhood spent in Siberian exile, he studied decorative art and trained as a painter in the Latvian Art Academy (1963–72), preparing for a career as a stage designer. Stage design and the applied arts were less constrained by Socialist Realist dictates during the 1970s, and he quickly became one of Latvia’s most innovative artists. His fluency with process art and installation, for example, was already evident in his designs for a 1973 Riga production of Žanna d’Arka (Joan of Arc) by Andrej Upīts, the stage metamorphosing from Minimalist cavity to an assemblage in Arte Povera style. Abandoning the theatre in 1987, Blumbergs continued his prolific output. His compositions, sometimes abstract, often figurative and allegorical, are notable within Latvian art for their spare elegance and uncontrived expressiveness, successfully combining grand literary allusion and subtle metaphysical content. His graphic virtuosity earned him a degree of international celebrity rare among his Latvian peers. Exceptional, too, for his political candour, he was a harbinger of ...