Kehinde Wiley’s new artwork Portrait of a Young Gentleman (2021) is based on Thomas Gainsborough’s painting of the same name, which is commonly known as The Blue Boy (pictured below) which is an icon of the collection at southern California’s Huntgington Library. Blue Boy (1770) follows a tradition of portraiture often referred to as ‘grand manner,’ whose stylistic formula is designed to announce the wealth and status of those who are portrayed.
Do you love a good pop culture mash-up? I sure do, and Joseph Gross Gallery has an excellent one up right now for just a few short weeks, so don’t even wait until you’re done reading this review (kidding) to run over and check out James Charles’ Monstro Eyegasmica, which, I will just say right now, is completely fucking insane.
Monstro Eyegasmica — great title! – collects five of Charles’ large, mixed media paintings in which the artist combines illustration, painting and collage-style composition to create works that are at once strikingly familiar and gloriously unsettling.
For example, the exhibit’s eponymous work (seen above) combines The Kiss by Gustav Klimt and that famous scene in the original Planet of the Apes where Charlton Heston’s character kisses the monkey lady. Seriously, this is a work of genius.
Elsewhere, Charles’ brand-jamming artwork irreverently combines pop culture characters with traditional iconography and embodies a sarcastic sense of humor. Here we see an enlightened Ronald McDonald sitting in for Jimi Hendrix of the cover of the album Axis: Bold As Love.
T.R.I.A.P.S. (Two Rats in a Psychedelic Sock) puts an R Crumb-esque spin on Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Bride of Pinkenstein marries the Bride of Frankenstein as portrayed by Angela Lansbury with one of the world’s most famous paintings, Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of eleven year-old Sarah Barrett Moulton, better known as Pinkie.
How absolutely perfect then that Charles dresses his likeness of Frankenstein’s Monster in the outfit worn by Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy, which hangs directly opposite Pinkiein the permanent collection of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.
Charles has also worked as a commercial sculptor, creating toy prototypes for the likes of Disney, Mattel, and Hasbro, so you can see where his irreverence and keen humor is coming from. His work reminds me very much of Ron English’s Popaganda movement, but with a more refined sense of the absurd.
James Charles’ Monstro Eyegasmica will be on Exhibit Through November 25th, 2015 at Joseph Gross Gallery, Now Located in a Fabulous Street Level Space at 548 at West 28th Street, in the Chelsea Gallery District.
Huntington Library Signage Featuring Original Audubon Drawing
The Huntington Library, contrary to what you might deduce from its rather literal name, is a former private estate property located in San Marino, California that now hosts a vast and mind blowing art collection and multiple, unique botanical gardens and sculpture collections, in addition to housing one of the largest and most complete research libraries in the United States. Seriously, the place is amazing. You could spend an entire day there and not get bored.
I spent an afternoon at the Huntington Library this past December and had the best time. Here are some photos I took to give you an idea of what you might see if you decide to visit.
Pinkie By Thomas Lawrence (1794)
Much of the Library’s collection of paintings centers around 18th-century English portraiture. Pinkie, one of the most famous paintings of its time, hangs directly across the room from Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy. It is really hard to avoid being moved by their beauty and profound emotional pull.
Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough
Many of the interior furnishings and fixtures in the main house/gallery remain from the time it was inhabited by its original owners, Henry and Arabella Huntington. You can see from the above light fixture that they had exquisite taste.
Mrs. Huntington was a dedicated collector of fine hand-painted china. There are several large rooms entirely devoted to showcasing her collection.
Because the Huntingtons were ridiculously wealthy, they traveled the world and added pieces to their collection from the countries they visited. This exquisite chest that flaunts an insanely ornate Mother of Pearl inlaid design is from Japan.
The pristinely landscaped grounds leading up to the main house and gallery are flanked by a remarkably gorgeous marble statue garden. Yes, rich people really used to live this way.
I love this large fountain, which bookends the sculpture garden.
It should not surprise anyone that the Library grounds are home to an indoor Rainforest.
They also have a huge Japanese Garden which features a large pond, statues, sculptures, a tea house, bridges and topiary.
Last but not least, there is small collection of Contemporary Art which includes pieces by some of my favorite artists, such as Andy Warhol, bringing the historical art experience full circle.
The Huntington Library Art Collection and Botanical Gardens is located at 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108. Phone (626)405-2100 or visit their Website for hours and admission information.