Monday, December 27, 2010

Sculpture and Benoit Mandelbrot

"Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line."  Benoit Mandlebrot. (1924-2010)

Funny, that sounds so obvious, but it took a mathematical genius like Mandelbrot to show us another way of seeing AND thinking about physical forms and patterns of all sorts, including the stock market.
Mandlebrot - photo from Paul Barsch's site
who writes of Ten Lessons from Mandelbrot applied to Marketing.
Mandelbrot saw the world differently. Like an artist, he actually took the time to look at the world and see what was really there.... hence the quote. His search for understanding the complexities of nature gave us the field called Fractal Geometry.

The 12 /26/ 2010 NY Times Magazine issue, The Lives They Lived, included an obituary on Mandelbrot, the man who gave structure to chaos. Read it.

Click here to see more fractals.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sculpture and Christmas

Christmas is a high point in the year for working sculpture.

Think about it. The holidays involve people creating, choosing, using, decorating, appreciating and placing objects sculpture in their homes, work places and public areas.  

You might call it by other names: toys,  a christmas creche display, gifts, Christmas trees, ornaments, wrapping, presents.  You own a lot more "sculpture" than you think. It's all around you.

Philippine santo head as Mary, Porcelain Chinese doll as baby J on antique stand.

Japanese bronze rat signature chop, two of my own carvings, Pipe cleaner Fox, ivory horse...

Glass birds, Balinese carved figure, Chinese votive figure, Mexican clay cactus

Disney's Alladin, an antique wooden Door of Hope doll, and two of my own carvings

Every year all my tiny sculptures are assembled on the mantle into an unorthodox nativity scene.
Balinese bone demons, a carved ivory horse and an Eskimo walrus carving from my parents time, Chinese votive figures, Mexican wooden animals, plastic toys are all part of my library of sculpture, loved for what they are and what they evoke.

Merry Christmas to all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sculpture and Daniel Wurtzel

Enchantment. It's so lovely and so simple.

Daniel Wurtzel's video is the perfect Christmas present. Just like when we were children and the box was more interesting than the contents, here the wrapping is the gift that comes alive.

Is it installation sculpture? Dance? A no person performance?
Who cares when it is this lovely!

Daniel Wertzer is a wizard in making the inanimate live. More on his website.

Double click on video to view full screen.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sculpture and Painting

Most sculptors believe that painters have it easy.
Stream 14.5 x 14.5 x2  inches from the quartet Journey. The Nature of Water Series © by Patrick Gracewood
Paint and canvas are cheap compared to mold making materials like rubber, casting metals and foundry costs. Painting's physical labor is easy compared to the exertion required for carving, fabrication, or casting. Painting can be a solo art where sculpture requires team work- even if it's a team of one.

Stream in GFRG before coloring © Patrick Gracewood
That's all true until I begin to paint my sculpture.

Years ago, I thought I could choose form and be able to forget about color.  Just oil the wood carving or seal the marble and it's done. I love the white on white monochromatic subtle forms of the plasters. But that doesn't mean others will understand without the color that helps tell the story.

Color is so seductive.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sculpture and the European Commission"s Definition of ART

It's only art if it's plugged in and turned on.
But really it's about the definitions of art and of money.

An Untitled Dan Flavin piece at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

 The European Commission ruled that works of art by two American artists, Bill Viola and Dan Flavin are not sculpture, installation art or even works of art.
Photo by Kira Perov, courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York
Bill Viola, "Night Journey" video installation
They're lamps.

In its decision, the European Commission describes the Flavin work as having "the characteristics of lighting fittings... and is therefore to be classified... as wall lighting fittings."

In a discussion of Viola's work that really split hairs, the commission stated that Viola's video-sound installation cannot be considered sculpture "as it is not the installation that constitutes a 'work of art' but the result of the operations (the light effect) carried out by it." 

Art is taxed at 5%, but lighting fixtures can be taxed at 20%.

Read more at the ArtInfo site. 

At the end of the article they mention US officials having the same problem with a sculpture by Brancusi.  His "Bird in Space" — a seminal abstract tapered bronze sculpture — was not considered an artwork according to customs, but rather fell under the classification of "Kitchen Utensils and Hospital Supplies" and was subject to that category's higher tariff.

Maybe conceptual art is really about bureaucracy.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sculpture and Paper Cuts

A florist for Portland's Heathman Hotel contacted me with the idea for "the worlds smallest dog park."

The hotel wants to advertise itself as a pet friendly place. The florist wanted to provide a few square feet of grass and needed some metal framework to both show it off and protect the space. The hotel's initials were to go in the black circle.

Alas, the project imploded.
My first design thought was that if some folks want to travel with their dogs, surely cat owners want to travel with THEIR cats. That supplied the sense of humor that let me begin. What would keep the dogs attention? Several balls and one cat....

Here's my design. Double click to enlarge.
Dogs and cat papercut ©2010 Patrick Gracewood
This was my initial sketch. You can see I wasn't sure about the cat.
I love how the black and white patterning makes your eyes dance around.

There's symmetry and interesting negative spaces that keep you looking at all the different kinds dogs: two mixed breed mutts falling for the snooty poodle at the right, calm big dogs at left, yapping beagles, odd Yorkies. Is your dog in the mix somewhere? (There's only one kind of cat. Unique.)

Since this design will not be in cut bronze at the Heathman,  do you think it would make a fun card for dog/cat lovers?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sculpture and Paper Cuts

Mermaid reading a Picture Book. paper cut by Patrick Gracewood © 2010
Memories of Bali paper cut by Patrick Gracewood ©2010

Bee and Flower paper cut by Patrick Gracewood ©2010
It's cold and wet and I don't want to be outside. So I'm inside working on more paper cuts. Here are a few of my designs. Click on the image to enlarge.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sculpture and Dance - LES TWINS

Mesdames et Messieurs je vous présente Les Twins

These young men are amazing dancers. What makes this routine special are all the other elements that they incorporate into it.  Watch it first for pure delight.

Then watch it again to see not just what they do, but HOW they do it.

They're playing with our awareness of technology, like the film Matrix, as they seamlessly slip into slow motion, almost moving "frame by frame".  ( It reminded me of Butoh. )

Then they speed up to fast forward, exactly in time to the music and each other. Being twins must help.  Mistakes, skipping, sound sampling, and that oldest trick in the book of dance, stillness and silence are beautifully used. Watch for how one or the other will hold a stillness. Every movement is very clear, nothing is wasted.

They're spoofing homophobia, movie fights, bro-mance. I lost count of the different threads.

For those of you who don't dance, 8 minutes of dancing with this level of energy is a very long time..

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sculpture and Illuminated Letters

I hated the hand lettering and graphic desing classes in college. It was all about an impossible perfection that computer fonts soon "rendered" obsolete.

Christmas wrapping paper with nice illuminated letters.

Chinese prayer paper works well because it's cheap, small scale and makes a nice present.
Hand lettering has come back to haunt me. I'm still practicing painting letters by hand. But now it's fun because I use it to practice both letter forms and an endless vine pattern. I see the vine pattern in Florentine papers, on old buildings. It's beautiful and deceptively difficult. All too easy to turn into a bramble vine smothering the letter.
 I used the C from the Christmas paper as inspiration for the ornament. Here's a case where the vines got out of control. Frustrating, but once it died I began to loosen up and experiment.  With this gold foil card stock paper I realized I could use stamping as addition texture, see lower left above.

Here's the finished birthday card for Christine. I like how the blue outline makes the red C pop. The foliage is ok but I've got a long way to go before it grows naturally. Anyone else haunted by these vines and their endless patterns?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sculpture and the Japanese Garden

The carefully pruned evergreens define different spaces while the brilliant colored fall leaves flatten space into blocks of color.  Fall is my favorite time to visit the Japanese Garden in Portland.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sculpture and Bas Relief

Mounted Amazon tile 3x3 inches Patrick Gracewood ©2010

Direct carved plaster mold by Patrick Gracewood ©2010
Here's a challenge. Can you think inside out and backwards?

Here's the finished tile and the original carved plaster mold.

Sometimes dyslexia is a good thing because you think about things differently. For tile work, just like printmaking, you have to work in reverse. If you want your image facing left, you must create it facing left. That's the backwards part.

And because bas relief has depth, you must carve away material for the finished work to stand proud of the surface. That's the inside out part.

It gets confusing even for me. Sometimes I use a mirror for quick checks, or pull a quick clay impression to see if the process is working.

Nothing gives the same detail and crispness for clay work as direct carving in plaster.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sculpture and The Billboard from Hell

Что такое борода Санта Клауса?
¿Qué es la barba de Santa Claus?
Kaj je Santa's brado?

What's in Santa's Beard? 

I think this billboard is funny and scary.
Having seen beards that entire fast food meals could disappear into only to reappear,
digging around in any beard, even Santa's, is unwise.
I want to know: "Who thought this was a good idea?"

That it's over an old time "hawg" motorcycle shop just makes it even funnier.

Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sculpture and Goats?

It always pays to take a walk around your neighborhood.

Six blocks away from the house, in the inner southeast industrial zone, with the downtown skyline in view, an entire block has gone back in time.

Way back.

We're talking Biblical times, with a herd of goats to contain the weeds.

 It's also a glimpse of the future. A Low-Tech Future brought to you by Goat Rental NW.

Formerly Produce Row, the wooden buildings burned to the ground in a spectacular fire. So it seems fitting to have goats occupying the site. Because it is so unexpected, cars pull off the busy street to gaze, parents bring small children and carrots to see the goats, people talk with strangers.

In the distance of the second photograph, in front of that turquoise building, is the sculpture of the day. The sculptor is Lee Kelly.

I've often noticed the odd turquoise building, but never appreciated how the widows become a mirror of the morning sky.

There you have it, a morning walk, a pastoral scene, and corporate patronage of the arts, all before 9 am. Indeed, this is the best of all possible worlds.