With their Photorealism, Robert Bechtle’s works capture the essence of modern, postwar American culture. The manicured lawns bathed in sunlight, the well-kept houses, the kids, the cars…all of suburbia’s manifestations are explored and exploited in his works. He elevates the mundane and commonplace to something more, an anonymous yet intimate view of ourselves. It is important to remember that his works are not photographs. They are masterfully painted pieces that are touched by the artist’s ideas, vision, hand, and point of view. A photograph captures what is there before us. Bechtle takes that moment and paints it as he sees it, not merely as the camera saw it. Like the Impressionists, he shows a fleeting glimpse of daily life, touched by transient light. Painting from photographs allows Bechtle to fully examine and capture that single moment in all its infinite detail. He then interprets the moment by selecting the details that he will paint. The overall flatness of many of his pieces creates a feeling of loneliness and emptiness amidst the picture-perfect settings.
In Bechtle’s oil painting ’61 Pontiac (1968-69) the family at the center of the image is the artist’s own. Standing beside his wife, with their two small children, they are the picture of familial complacency. They fully inhabit their own world, which is visible from where they stand. The house, the yard, the station wagon – this is their domain. Their pose amidst this seems almost uncomfortable, as if they want to move but are plagued with inertia. The field of view is devoid of anything other than the family and its possessions. The painting has a flatness accentuated by the fact that all fields of the painting are in focus, unlike with a photograph where depth of field creates some areas that are more crisp than others. It is as if there is no delineation or value given to any subject in the painting—the lawn is as much a star of this work as is the car or the blonde children.
Robert Bechtle plays on American desires and dreams, poking dead-pan fun at the ultimate banality and emptiness of achieving those dreams. The stark reality of his work is that it says as much about Americans’ feelings of alienation as it does about the ongoing quest for the American Dream.
I see this classic Dodge parked on the street across from my house most days. I’m not sure which model year it is, but I think mid-to-late 1950s is a safe best. Anyway, I noticed it has this cool Ram Hood Ornament. Very nice.
Check it out: what model year does this look like to you? Leave suggestions in the comments, please!
Nari Ward (b. 1963, Jamaica) creates sculptural installations from materials he collects in his neighborhoods, ranging from his original hometown in Jamaica, to Harlem, where he has lived since 1983. Ward’s compositions wrestle with memory and belonging, and address topics from justice to health care.
For his High Line commission, the artist reconfigures a childhood memory. Returning to his father’s home in Jamaica after 15 years away, Ward remembers finding an abandoned car in the front yard, [which was] sprouting a lime tree. He reimagines this story for the High Line with Smart Tree; the form of a Smart Car refinished with tire treads, propped up on cinder blocks, and sprouting an apple tree from its roof.
With the car’s cinderblock base representing stasis, and its coating of tire treads suggesting perpetual movement, Smart Tree holds up a mirror to the flux surrounding the High Line itself and reminds viewers of the park’s history as a major transportation artery in Manhattan.
Smart Tree will be on view at the High Line Park Through March of 2017.
Take a long look at this Sweet Ride: A custom-painted Peace Limousine!
Geoffrey and I spotted this car parked on Greene Street at the corner of Houston, in Soho, NYC. Not only does it display the word Peace painted on both sides, but it also has the slogan“Make Love Not War” painted on the hood. Peace Limo!
Joss Paper is burned by the Chinese to honor the deceased. Traditional Joss Paper, or ghost money, is commonly found in the form of squares of rough bamboo paper printed with seals and rectangles of gold or silver. More contemporary forms of Joss Paper include hell notes, often with denominations of $10,000 to $5,000,000,000. There are also elaborate, faithful paper reproductions of everyday objects such as suits of clothes, shirts and ties, high heel shoes, cell phones, cameras, computers, packs of cigarettes, bottles of alcohol, toothpaste, false teeth and makeup kits. Larger Joss objects include television sets, jet planes and Mercedes Benz automobiles.
These items represent the favorite objects of the dead, and when they are burned the items are sent along with the dead into the hereafter. They are made of papier mache and waste paper from packaging, and the backs and undersides of the objects sometimes reveal the logos of the various products they originally packaged. The Joss Paper objects themselves sometime feature parodies of familiar logos, such as Kekou Cola and Halloro Lights cigarettes.
Another little known, but very fun, fact about David Bowie that has just started to make the rounds is that he designed the above Chrome-Finish Mini back in 1998-99 to celebrate the brand’s 40th Anniversary. Outstanding! You can read more about this car, including a collection of hilariously snarky quotes from Bowie, over at Jalopnik!