While most of the street art that I discover on my adventures is clearly tagged, sometimes that tag is hard to decipher, and I need some assistance identifying the artist. By connecting with artists on Instagram, I’ve learned that they all seem to know and support each other, which is cool and very helpful. If I don’t know the artist behind a work that I want to put on the blog, and the first person I ask doesn’t know, then they know someone who does. This is how I ended up connecting with the creator of an unsigned series of works that I’ve been seeing on the streets, and documenting, since around Christmastime last year. Each of the paste-ups in this very distinctive series features one to three still life images accompanied by a one-word title, and the artist’s signature conspicuously absent. If you live in the east village or downtown, there’s no way you haven’t seen them. All I can say is that they speak to me.
“Singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind.” This is how the radical philosopher William Godwin described his daughter, the Romantic novelist Mary Shelley, who achieved fame and infamy for her groundbreaking Gothic fiction Frankenstein (1818), written at the remarkable age of twenty-one. Here, the Italian neoclassicist Camillo Pistrucci uses the imposing genre of the white marble portrait bust (1843) to present Shelley in the grand manner of a virtuoso. Balancing the rhythmic forms of the face and drapery with the dazzling details of her sweeping Victorian hairstyle, Pistrucci achieves a precision and finesse that betrays the influence of his father, Benedetto Pistrucci, the unrivaled cameo carver. The artist carved the bust in Rome in the year of Shelley’s Italian sojourn.
Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851)
Photographed in the British Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
The idea for this work began when Salvador Dalí discovered an inkwell illustrated with the praying couple (from Jean-Francois Millet’s painting The Angelus, 1857–59). He embedded the inkwell in a loaf of bread and placed them both on the portrait bust of a woman.
In 1931, Dalí described Surrealist sculpture as “created wholly for the purpose of materializing in a fetishistic way, with maximum tangible reality, ideas and fantasies of a delirious character.” Retrospective Bust of a Woman (1933) not only presents a woman as an object, but explicitly as one to be consumed. A baguette crowns her head, cobs of corn dangle around her neck, and ants swarm along her forehead as if gathering crumbs. Ants, of course, are a common reoccurring motif in Dali’s work.
This little bust of a Greco-Roman soldier sporting a super fancy helmet caught my eye despite its diminutive size of maybe 2 inches in height. And as is basks in a pinkish-hued glow, it’s easy to believe that the statue is in fact pink; but it’s not. The tiny bust is white, but by shooting it with my phone from a low angle, I was able to maximize the pink reflection of the room’s walls through the glass shelf on which it sits. It’s art!
Photographed at Wonderworld Space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Concert Poster artist and collectible figure aficionado Frank Kozik has been churning out limited editions of his Mickey Mao bust, officially entitled The Bird is the Word (because “Papa Ooh Mao Mao,“ I guess?) for a decade, I think. I’ve seen them in all sizes, colors and finishes, but this one measures an imposing 30″ x 20″ x 18″ and comes in a Lime Green Sparkle Automotive finish that can be yours for just $7,500!
What’s most interesting about this Hot Pink bust of a lovely African American lady, is that it’s not in use as your standard display mannequin, despite the fact that it is clearly in the middle of a clothing section of a department store. In this instance, it is really more like a sculpture; more like a work of art meant to enhance the consumer’s shopping experience, I think. In my case, it was highly effective.
Photographed at Saks Fifth Avenue, The Gardens on El Paseo, Palm Desert, California.
Ascetic, sharp features give this bust (circa 1909) of conductor/composer Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) an aristocratic look. Mahler modeled for Rodin, though the sittings were difficult to endure for the nervous composer, who saw rest as “time wasted away from his work.” This, according to his wife, Alma Mahler.
Trivia: After Mahler’s death in 1911 (at age 5o) from a bacterial infection of the heart valve, Alma Mahler went on to be married to Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, for five years.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art on NYC.