Archive for Century Guild Contemporary

You wanted ‘em? We got ‘em! Come see the amazing FREAKS!

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Gail Potocki, San Diego Comic Con, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on 8 April, 2013 by SeanChase

The days of circuses, carnivals, vaudeville, cabarets, and early cinema have always held a hypnotic sway over me and I’ve been obsessed with them since my childhood.  Of particular interest are the sideshow attractions and freak shows.  The wondrously bizarre, beautiful, and grotesque world of sideshow freaks has been a source of fascination and controversy from the time of their inception in the 19th Century, though circuses themselves date back to ancient Graeco-Roman traditions.  While today we may not have direct access to the theatrical spectacle of circus sideshows, at least not the ones that proliferated in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and which focused on physical abnormalities, we do have certain portals into that world of entertainment that existed in the dark shadows of The Big Top.  Aside from modern sideshow attractions, which focus more on physical performance than physical deformity, there have been numerous films and works of art that have attempted to pay homage or preserve the atmospheric ambiance, the eccentric characters, and unbelievable world of circuses and their inhabitants.  Perhaps the strange allure of the sideshow can be reduced to the simple dynamics of exhibition and exploitation, but then again, most forms of art and expression can.  What is it that makes carnivals and circuses so tantalizingly mysterious to the outside world?

Perhaps the circus is the exaggerated reality that lies just beyond the periphery of our accepted social sphere.  It at once allows us a glimpse into an environment where everything is heightened, pushed to the limit (and sometimes far surpasses it), and while things may be familiar, nothing is really the same as in the lives that we know.  Though it isn’t feasible to escape our frustratingly mundane personal realities and simply “run away to join the circus”, it is possible to seek inspiration and escapism within the world of freaks and carnies.  Taking inspiration from this spectacular world is exactly what Gail Potocki has done.  Begun in 2009, the Freaks portraits series is an ongoing project for Gail, and only a few of her amazing portraits have been revealed and even more have yet to be created.  The brilliant portraits are like a peephole into the circus tents of the past.  Not only do they shine the spotlight on some truly unusual characters, but they also expose their humanity in a way that is both profound and endearing.  Each portrait embraces its subject as an individual, both celebrating their differences and acknowledging their humanity, and all the while doing so in a playfully creative manner that is fitting of Gail’s symbolist style.

The first five "Freaks" paintings by Gail Potocki!

The first five “Freaks” paintings by Gail Potocki!

Continue reading

Coming January 12th, 2013… After the Apocalypse!

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Century Guild Events, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 8 January, 2013 by SeanChase

The Mayans were wrong and the world did not end, so we’re celebrating!  Century Guild is proud to present a new show on January 12, 2013, which will feature three very different artists exploring visions of life, death, and the possibilities of what may come after.  The themes and imagery will be rooted in the human psyche and range from the divine to the obscene, from despair to salvation, from paradise to perdition.  We’ll be showcasing very rare artworks by Art Nouveau master Alphonse Mucha, German Expressionist Bruno Goldschmitt, and contemporary artist Richard Friend.  In other words, this will be one hell of a show!

After the Apocalypse... January 12th, 2013 at Century Guild!

After the Apocalypse… January 12th, 2013 at Century Guild!  Featuring the indelible artwork of Mucha, Friend, and Goldschmitt!

 

Alphonse Mucha‘s name should be more than familiar.  He was the single most important figure of the Art Nouveau movement and certainly the most recognized for his outpouring of creativity and his prolific capacity.  His paintings, illustrations, advertisements, postcards, and decorative designs were hugely influential at the turn of the century and are still highly sought after by collectors today.  Aesthetically, the imagery he created with its fine line work, decorative floral elements, and graceful figures of femininity, became the groundwork for Art Nouveau.  Best known for his many commercial works, mainly lithograph posters, postcards, and illustrations, Mucha’s work expanded far beyond that as well.

Frustrated with the fame he achieved almost solely through his commercial endeavors, Mucha declared that it was his aim to produce artwork that was more personal and spiritual.  As a result, Mucha created two series of masterful narrative images, all done in his distinct style, but with greater attention to detail and more thematic intensity.  The latter of these two series was his ambitious and enormous Slovanská epopej (Slavic Epic) inspired by the history and legends of the Slavic people.  This series consisted of twenty large canvases that took him over eighteen years to produce from 1918 to 1928.

However, of equal import both in terms of his artistic development and the shift in his aesthetic to more complex thematic content, and lesser known due to its limited printing of only 510 copies, are his symbolically rich drawings for Le Pater (The Lord’s Prayer) published on December 20, 1899.  Originally printed by F. Champenois and published by Henry Piazza, Le Pater was an elaborately illustrated and illuminated work in which Mucha took each verse of The Lord’s Prayer and created a corresponding illustration to it.  Filled with enigmatic figures and occult motifs, it was described by Mucha in the January 5, 1900 issue of The Sun as “the thing which I have put my soul into”.

"Hallowed Be Thy Name" by Alphonse Mucha (1899, lithograph).

“Hallowed Be Thy Name” by Alphonse Mucha (1899, lithograph).

"Give Us This Our Daily Bread" by Alphonse Mucha (1899, lithograph).

“Give Us This Our Daily Bread” by Alphonse Mucha (1899, lithograph).

"Lead Us Not Into Temptation But Deliver Us From Evil" by Alphonse Mucha (1899, lithograph).

“Lead Us Not Into Temptation But Deliver Us From Evil” by Alphonse Mucha (1899, lithograph).

 

Bruno Goldschmitt was a German Expressionist, who although somewhat obscure today, is probably best known for his printmaking using woodcuts, although he also made tapestries, paintings, and worked in various other mediums.  A friend and associate of Nobel winning German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter Herman Hesse, Goldschmitt was very much of the contemporary school of art stylistically and he incorporated a great number of influences into his aesthetic.  His work is imbued with much of the iconography of Symbolism and the emotional potency of Expressionism, as well as the bold line work and sharp, exaggerated angles of the latter.  But in terms of the themes he expressed, most can be traced back to Germany’s ancient history and medieval European art in general.  Allegorical woodcuts and drawings of classical figures of European myth and legend abound in his work, as do idyllic and somewhat pantheistic scenes of rural countryside activities and seasonal changes, but most fascinating are his dynamic images inspired by the Old Testament.

"The Prophet" by Bruno Goldschmitt (circa 1920, woodcut print).

“The Prophet” by Bruno Goldschmitt (circa 1920, woodcut print).

 

One of the things that I love about Century Guild is how various artists from different eras and movements are all brought together to form a lush collective representing different styles and genres of art.  Not only do we have classic works from the key movements of the 19th and 20th Centuries, but we also get to introduce people to some of the most original, innovative, and moving pieces of contemporary art.  With that in mind, we’re proud to be displaying the work of Richard Friend

"Black Drawing VII: Falling" by Richard Friend (2010, ink on paper).

“Black Drawing VII: Falling” by Richard Friend (2010, ink on paper).

Brimming with imposing shadows, tormented souls, and atmospheric locales, the compositions almost seem caught between recollection and nightmare, and simultaneously function as commentary on societal woes and project the dilemmas of the subconscious, making Richard Friend‘s Black Drawings unforgettable.  The high contrast of the black and white, the intricacies of the line work, and the pervasive images of decaying buildings, crumbling statues, and of human lives lost in torment help to evoke a haunting mood quite unlike anything else.  Spending most of his life as a musician, Richard’s work is understandably endowed with a dark, compelling lyricism that enriches the themes he so adeptly explores.

"A Feast of Saints" by Richard Friend (2010, ink on paper).

“A Feast of Saints” by Richard Friend (2010, ink on paper).

Explaining the inspiration for the above image, “A Feast of Saints” to me,  he said, “The idea is that we as humans are vulnerable, victims to larger things: our own fears; religion; power.  So, the figure is god-like [and represents these things] and then you have man below cowering.  There’s also a maternal element to the piece.”

Striving to create art that would be both deeply personal and original, Friend’s drawings are gripping works that not only express his own ideas and feelings, but are also sure to elicit strong emotional reactions from viewers.   Among Richard’s diverse inspirations and influences are Rembrandt, Goya, Dalí, Saudek, and Giger, so it’s no wonder that his vivid imaginings are so captivating to look at and so difficult to categorize.  He has more than achieved his goal of creating contemporary art that is both personal  and original, he has created something that is transcendent.  Richard described the reactions to his art, saying, “It can almost act like a Rorschach for people.  It’s very interesting to see which pieces appeal to what people.  It surprises me.”

 
Information on the After the Apocalypse opening and exhibition:

AFTER THE APOCALYPSE opens January 12, 2013 with a reception from 6-9pm at Century Guild.
Exhibition continues January 17, 18 & 19 from noon-8pm.

For further information or press photos contact the gallery at 1-800-610-CENTURY or gallery@centuryguild.net.

Century Guild
6150 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

So, is the end nigh?  Far from it, we’re just getting started.

– Sean

Jeremy Bastian and His Cursed Pirate Girl Return!

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Century Guild Events, Jeremy Bastian, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 10 November, 2012 by SeanChase

As you know, Century Guild has relocated its gallery from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California, and we are very pleased to announce that our new location will open with a very special book signing with none other than our good friend, Jeremy A. Bastian.  We will be holding a Grand Opening for the new gallery on December 1st, 2012 from 6-9pm.  Jeremy will be there in person to sign books, including advanced copies of his graphic novel, Cursed Pirate Girl, which is being published by Archaia Entertainment.  We will also be displaying exclusive artwork from Cursed Pirate Girl for the first time.

Cursed Pirate Girl: The Collected Edition, Volume 1 (Archaia Publishing, published Dec. 2012)

The ongoing story of Cursed Pirate Girl tells the whimsical tale of a young girl as she sets sail for adventure in search of her missing father, who is one of the legendary Pirate Captains of the mythical Omerta Seas.  On her voyages, both above and below the surface of the ocean, she encounters a series of bizarre, charming, and grotesque characters that leap forth from the page with such vitality and imagination that they rival the fantastical creations of Lewis Carroll, Winsor McCay, and Terry Gilliam.

Jeremy A. Bastian, attending San Diego Comic-Con 2012, stops by the Century Guild booth to meet fans and sign autographs of his work.

At a time when just about everyone seems to be familiar with comic book characters and their worlds, primarily due to the high-end film adaptations of superhero comic books, it has become increasingly rare for comics fans to stumble across anything original.  As Hellboy creator Mike Mignola has said, “It’s all too rare that I see work that is truly original – and I almost never see work THIS original – Jeremy Bastian is a genius.”
Continue reading

Clinging to Life: An Examination of Gail Potocki’s “The Raft of the Medusa”

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Gail Potocki, Uncategorized with tags , , on 18 October, 2012 by SeanChase

Amongst humans there is an inherent fascination with the sea and with the water from which we once sprang.  Over the years we have come to understand not only the life-giving and life-sustaining necessity of our oceans, but also the primal beauty of them.  Because of water’s inconstancy and ability to adapt to its environment, it has been used as a representation of the human emotional condition, but also as a symbol for the vast cosmos with its many changes and unknowns.  We have imbued water with symbolic importance, as we have observed the connection between the tides and the cycle of the moon, and how those cycles reflect the very changes of human and animal life on Earth.  We have created myths and fables: of seductive water nymphs and sirens who lure sailors to their dooms; of indomitable gods and goddesses who were borne of and ruled over the seas; of heroes whose mightiest weapons were plucked from mystic waters; and of babies sent in rafts either to meet their demise or to seek sanctuary by divine providence in new lands.

The image of the shipwreck has permeated all cultures as a cautionary metaphor for what happens when we drive ourselves too far, ignorant of the many consequences, or when we allow ourselves to be seduced by convenience and comfort rather than rationality.  Where once the shipwreck was a symbol of human failure or death, today, with the advances of technology allowing for mass transportation of passengers and cargo, the shipwreck is frequently a disaster not only for those immediately affected.  It is also a disaster for the environment and for the thousands of different forms of aquatic life that must survive, or do not survive as so often is the case, through the aftermath.  So, it should come as no surprise that there must be a cautious equilibrium between ourselves and the oceans lest we wish to face catastrophe.

“The Raft of the Medusa” by Gail Potocki (2012, Oil on linen, custom frame).   Taking her title from Théodore Géricault’s 19th Century painting of the same name, Gail Potocki has created another masterpiece of environmental symbolism.  This particular painting is both a lament for the destruction of nature in the past and warning of the inevitable effects should such destruction continue unchecked.

 

The idea that a man-made tragedy can now take a great toll on non-human life as well and wreak havoc upon the environment and ecosystems is the predominant theme in Gail Potocki‘s 2012 painting, “The Raft of the Medusa“.  The painting is a stark work of environmental symbolism that summons up an unforgettable image of a catastrophic shipwreck, which leaves in its wake a fire and plumes of smoke, a slick of oil on the ocean, and various birds and animals desperately clinging onto a woman, who represents all of humankind, for survival.  While the proverbial rats leave the sinking ship and turn the woman’s collar into a makeshift raft, birds doused in thick oil panic and struggle to survive as they flail their wings trying to free themselves from the crude.  The woman, who is garbed in an opulent dress and seemingly oblivious to the destruction and turmoil around her, discards a partially eaten apple with insouciance.  Upon that apple is a sticker with a bar code, a further reminder of humanity’s attempt to control and capitalize upon nature at nature’s expense.  In Gail’s own words, “I’ve often used the apple as a symbol of the Earth.”

Detail from “The Raft of the Medusa” by Gail Potocki (2012, Oil on linen).  The woman’s hand lets go of the apple from which she has bitten into, letting it fall into the sea.  The apple, which represents the Earth or the environment, has been used as a resource, a mere commodity, harnessed by humankind to suit their purposes and then unlovingly discarded.  Meanwhile, the oil-soaked birds flail in distress around the woman.

Detail from Gail Potocki’s “The Raft of the Medusa” (2012, Oil on linen). Here, we can see the rats as they become dependent upon the woman, clinging to her collar for survival from the wreck which her species was responsible for.  Standing on the back of her collar is a Vacanti mouse.  The Vacanti mouse or “earmouse” as it has commonly been referred, was a SCID mouse (severe combined immunodeficiency), which are frequently used for research in biology.  The Vacanti mouse had bovine cartilage grown under its skin, which then developed into the shape of an ear.  Experimentation on rats and other rodents is yet another example of how humans have benefited from nature and from creatures for our own gain.

 

The title of Gail’s painting is an appropriation of and homage to Théodore Géricault‘s 1819 painting Le Radeau de la Méduse, which was one of his best known works and is a cornerstone of 19th Century French Romantic movement in art.  Géricault’s painting was an ambitious work by which the French artist hoped to secure his place among the great Romantic painters of his day.  Inspired by the 1816 wreck of the naval frigate, the Méduse, off the coast of what is now modern-day Mauritania.  This wreck was attributed primarily to the inexperience and incompetence of its captain, the Viscount Hugues Duroy de Chaumereys.  The ship was poorly navigated and had drifted a hundred miles off of its charted course, which lead to it running aground on a sandbank in West Africa.  The ship carried over 400 people, of which 160 were crew members, but the capacity of the life boats was only 250 people.  Those who could not be afforded room in the lifeboats built a makeshift raft, which was intended to be towed by the lifeboats, but the 147 people upon the raft was too great a number and almost immediately the raft began to take on water, so the raft was cut loose and the people on it left to their own devices.  Within the first day, they had eaten the only food they had and their drinking water was lost amidst an on-board scuffle.  The survivors were driven mad by exposure to the elements and starvation.  Weak, malnourished, and mutinous, they began to turn on each other, eventually resorting to murder and cannibalism.  By the time a rescue crew attempted to save those on the raft, only fifteen of the 147 people were still alive.  The rest had perished by starvation, by sickness, by being consumed as food, or by being thrown into the sea and some of those did so of their own volition.  The resulting press surrounding the tragedy became a scandal and an embarrassment for the French monarchy.

“Le Radeau de la Méduse” by Théodore Géricault (Oil on canvas, 1819).  In selecting the subject matter for what he hoped would be the painting that brought him acclaim, Géricault chose to depict the harrowing moment in which the fifteen survivors of 147 upon the raft see in the distance an approaching vessel sent to rescue them.  Géricault had thought that he could rise to prominence by featuring the wreck of the Méduse and its survivors as his theme, however, the painting became controversial during its 1819 unveiling at the Paris Salon in part due to its aesthetic departure from the serenity of the Neo-Classical, but also due to the sensitive subject matter and the heightened emotional response it elicited.

Gail Potocki‘s painting echoes some of the same themes as Géricault’s, such as the struggle to survive in the wake of disaster and the incompetence and arrogance of mankind.  While Géricault’s painting was inspired by the wreck of the Méduse, Gail took her inspiration from more recent disasters such as the Exxon Valdez in 1989.  The analogy is there and basically the same, but the great difference is that over the years we have better developed our ability to save human lives through safety precautions and rescue efforts, however, so often lessening the devastation wrought upon nature and wildlife isn’t made a priority until it’s too late.

An oil-soaked bird from the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989.

A detail from “The Raft of the Medusa” by Gail Potocki (2012, Oil on linen).  All too true to life, Gail’s meticulously detailed and emotionally wrought depiction of the birds covered in oil is representative of the thousands of birds who have been affected by oil spills and similar man-made calamities.  Through her art, we are allowed to experience their anguish, to empathize with them, and to accept that there must be change.

 

Eventually we must ask ourselves:  What happens when we overestimate our own abilities and underestimate nature?  Any conflict which arises from such a circumstance almost invariably sees a drastic loss in life, though not always human, and yet there are often consequences of horrendous proportions which some of us choose to see while others do not.  We have a responsibility to ensure that the planet we depend on, and that all systems of life depends on, is taken seriously and respected.  Nature is not to be trifled with.  This theme, this reverential treatment of nature has oft been expressed in poetry and the arts, as has the warning for humankind not to let their ambitions outreach their grasp.  Gail’s environmental paintings are a bold, always beautiful yet often unsettling, and essential reminder that we are a part of nature, that our actions do carry with them an effect (be it for good or bad), so there must be an attempt to protect the natural world around us or accept that its demise will also be our own.

– Sean

Wear Cutting Edge Art with Pride – New Shirts Now Available!

Posted in Comic Conventions, Gail Potocki, Jeremy Bastian, Malleus Rock Art Lab, Merchandise, San Diego Comic Con, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on 12 July, 2012 by SeanChase

Step right up and see what wonders we have for you!

Just in time for the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con, the Century Guild booth (Booth # 2845) is debuting new t-shirts featuring the extraordinary work of Jeremy A. Bastian, the Malleus Rock Art Lab, and Gail Potocki!  These new graphic t-shirts, aside from being fashionable and extremely comfortable, showcase the work of diverse and immensely talented artists at the height of their creative apex.  Now, why should you buy one (or all) of these very cool shirts?  Because they are amazing!  Let’s take a closer look at each one and you’ll see why.

 

First off, let’s see the exceptionally cool shirt done by Malleus

Thomas Negovan ‘The Divine Eye’ t-shirt (MALLEUS, 2012)

Available in sizes small, medium, large, and extra large, and produced in a limited edition number of 80, this deep v-neck, fitted t-shirt exclusively for the ladies (sorry, guys) is made of highest quality 100% cotton, features gold foil details, and the graphic was screened using high resolution to create the best possible image.  The design appearing on the t-shirt was originally created for a poster to help promote the release of  Thomas Negovan‘s historical 2011 debut single “The Divine Eye“, which was recorded on a Thomas Edison phonograph and released as a limited edition wax cylinder.  Certainly such a feat is worthy of recognition, and indeed commemoration, but no mere work of commercial art would suffice, so naturally Thomas turned to Malleus Rock Art Lab and what they created is simply spectacular.

Thomas Negovan ‘The Divine Eye’ poster (Malleus, 2011)

Malleus is an artist collective comprised of three unique and talented individuals.  Their work is inspired by Art Nouveau, Expressionism, Surrealism, Psychedelic Art, and Pop Art.  They’ve created works for everyone from Queens of the Stone Age and the Mars Volta to The Dresden Dolls and Amanda Palmer.  When it comes to creating indelible and iconic imagery to accompany and promote the releases and tours of today’s best music acts, Malleus is already a legend.

 

And from Gail Potocki‘s fantastic Freaks series…

Freaks t-shirts collection (Gail Potocki, 2012)

Also available in BOTH men’s and women’s sizes small, medium, large, and extra large, and produced in a limited edition number of 85 each gender, these ultra-comfortable and timeless, dark grey, crew-neck shirts are made of 100% cotton and screened from high resolution to best capture the masterful work of modern symbolist Gail Potocki‘s brilliant paintings.  The imagery for these two shirts is derived from  Gail’s Freaks series  done in 2009, which lovingly pays homage to the world of circus and carnival sideshow figures from the early part of the 20th Century.  These detailed and nuanced portraits manage to not only capture the essence of their subjects, but also the imaginations of all those who see them.  Imagine the look of intrigue on your friends’ faces as you proudly wear your own shirt featuring Annie Jones the Bearded Lady or Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy!

Annie Jones the Bearded Lady (Gail Potocki, 2009)

‘Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy’ (Gail Potocki, 2009)

Of her fascination with the freaks, Gail says, “I think part of it is that they had to blaze their own trail whether they wanted to or not.  Because they are so unique and rare, they stand out like diamonds in a sea of glass.
So too will the wearers of these awe-inspiring t-shirts, which are sure to become cult favorites and collector’s items, so be sure to pick yours up soon because they will disappear fast!

 

And from the imagination of Jeremy A. Bastian

Cursed Pirate Girl t-shirts (Jeremy A. Bastian, 2012)

Available in BOTH men’s and women’s sizes small, medium, large, and extra large, and produced in an extremely limited edition number of only 70, these stylish, grey crew-neck t-shirts are made from 100% cotton and feature a slick wrap-around design which was screened from high resolution and allows for the insane amount of detail of Jeremy Bastian‘s work to display itself.  The exclusive design features the Cursed Pirate Girl herself as she heroically leaps out of the reach of the clutches of her vile nemeses.  Whether you’re a fan of comic books, pirates, illustration, or just want to wear a really handsome shirt, we have your needs covered thanks to Jeremy’s remarkable work.

Cursed Pirate Girl: The Collected Edition, Volume 1 (Archaia Publishing, 2012)

Jeremy’s astonishingly illustrated and darkly, whimsical comic book for children has been acclaimed by some of the comics industry’s most respected names and the first three epic issues were recently collected in a single volume by Archaia Publishing.  The title has been on the rise in popularity and there’s even a radio-dramedy in the works featuring Stephanie Leonidas (the star of Dave McKean‘s films MirrorMask and the upcoming Luna) as the title heroine and swashbuckling adventurer.  Jeremy will be appearing at Comic-Con with Archaia at Booth # 2635 and Stephanie will also be making an appearance at our Comic-Con booth along with some other guest surprises, so keep an eye out, matey!

 

All of these shirts, both in style and sizes, are available in very LIMITED QUANTITIES only at Comic-Con and they will go fast, so you will want to be sure to purchase yours while you can.  Stop by Century Guild at Booth # 2845 and pick up yours!

– Sean

Gail Potocki Brings Beauty to Artifice

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Gail Potocki, Uncategorized with tags , , on 19 May, 2012 by SeanChase

I’ve grown up loving art of all different eras and aesthetic movements, however, with that said, I rarely find a piece of artwork that genuinely moves me so deeply that it becomes forever emblazoned in my mind and heart.  There are paintings from the Italian Renaissance, the Romanticists, the Pre-Raphaelites, the Symbolists, and then later from the Expressionists, which have managed to do this, yet most modern art seems to be so concerned with style and conceptualization, that it becomes emotionally devoid in its presentation.  So, it is a very special feeling when a contemporary artist creates a piece of work that speaks to the mind, as well as to the heart, can evoke emotion, and provoke thought.  Gail Potocki‘s painting, “The Repositioning of Artifice” is such a piece of work.

“The Repositioning of Artifice” by Gail Potocki (2012, oil on linen).

Continue reading

From Horror to Ecstasy – Dave McKean Turns Silence into Expression

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Dave McKean, Silent Cinema, Transmission Atelier, Uncategorized with tags , , on 26 April, 2012 by SeanChase

On February 26th, 2012, something rather extraordinary occurred:  The Artist, a contemporary silent film won the ‘Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year‘.  Almost coinciding with this momentous occasion is the fact that a few days later, March 4th marked the 90th anniversary of what is my favorite film of all time, Nosferatu – Eine Symphonie des Grauens, directed by German silent filmmaker Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau.  On March 4th, the film had its gala preview showing back in 1922.  The film, for those who aren’t familiar with it, has become an iconic classic among the annals of horror films and is one of the most visually poetic of the films often collectively referred to as German Expressionist cinema.

Max Schreck as Count Orlok and Greta Schröder as Ellen.  In the starkly climactic scene of the 1922 film “Nosferatu”, the vampire Count Orlok is lured to his demise with an offering of blood by the virtuous and virginal heroine, Ellen Hutter.  As she sacrifices herself to his monstrous appetite, Count Orlok is diverted and unaware of the passing time, thus rendering him helpless to the lethal first rays of sunlight.

“Nosferatu” (2010, mixed media).  Dave McKean’s marvelously expressionistic interpretation of the same scene in the film.  One of the great examples of his ongoing “Nitrate” series of paintings which are a glorious homage to classic films of the early era.  The use of tortured angles, rich textures, and chiaroscuro effects would have met with great approval from the film’s director F.W. Murnau.

Many of these silent films possess a symbolic quality and a visual poetry that most modern films lack entirely.  The filmmakers of the Expressionist movement took advantage of the environment in which the story played out and used it to serve as a visual metaphor for the emotional state of the characters.  Cinematographers and cameramen employed new techniques in moving the camera around while shooting, in addition to placing an emphasis on the contrast between light and shadow.  Meanwhile editors experimented with cutting scenes so as to create the illusion of geographical and emotional continuity from one shot to the next.

It was a new era and because no one had ever laid out the rules or guidelines for what couldn’t be done in the cinema, many filmmakers approached their craft with an experimental curiosity, both in terms of the subject matter that they explored and the way in which they went about creating the haunting imagery being shown on screen.

The ominous figure of Mephisto, played by German character actor Emil Jannings, hovers over the town as his colossal wings fan a miasma of plague on the people.  This classic scene from F.W. Murnau’s 1926 film “Faust” was a showcase not only for special effects of the day, but also a wonderful opportunity to display the operatic scale of the battle between good and evil in the cinematic medium.

“Faust” (2007, mixed media).  Dave McKean’s impressive take on the memorable scene.  The way in which he has fabricated the effect of the wind and the cloud of plague blowing over the rooftops is extremely creepy and stylistically rivals the same effect achieved in the film.

Interestingly, there has been in the past few years a growing appreciation and understanding of why silent cinema is so special.  While film scholars and cineastes have long championed silent films for their artistic merits and their technical innovation, many modern film audiences have until recently dismissed them as relics of the past, but now with the this new recognition that silent films are receiving, many movie goers are reevaluating their initial stance on these classics.  No more are they being viewed as fading relics of redundant or obsolete technologies.  Finally, more people are beginning to see their artistic value and the important part that they played in the continuing evolution of the movie industry.

Without the films of Georges Méliès, Robert Wiene, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Sergei Eisenstein, Fritz Lang, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Victor Sjöström, Paul Leni, and others, we wouldn’t even have had the wonderful European art house films of the past 50 years.  And these are but just a few of the great filmmakers from Europe.  There were many wonderful silent film directors in America and throughout other parts of the world.  Taking that into consideration, the long lasting effect of these films cannot be understated;  they are an essential part of our culture and of cinematic history.
Continue reading

Welcome to the Freakshow!

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Exploitation Films, Gail Potocki, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 2 March, 2012 by SeanChase

Deep down, I think we all have an attraction to the strange and unusual.  Some people don’t want to admit it and others will just as soon look away in disgust or horror, but in actuality, for a number of reasons, those that we regard as different or as strange and unusual hold a fascination for us.  Despite our best efforts, it’s still difficult not to stare awkwardly at those who live beyond the “norm” of society, those that don’t match our cultural and social expectations, or those who merely look different from us.  Often we resort to insulting terms such as “weirdos”, “creeps”, or “freaks” to describe these people whom we fail to understand.  But perhaps the greatest reason that we have this love/hate relationship with them is because they remind us of ourselves.

Perhaps there is no greater example within contemporary culture of our dualistic reaction to the social outsider than the 1932 Tod Browning horror-melodrama Freaks.  The film, which has become beloved by some and reviled by others, is considered one of the first true cult classics and even today it still manages to pack a punch.  The story is a deceptively simple tale about the companionship of a small group of sideshow performers and what happens when their inner circle is threatened by “normal” folk – the other great outsider.  One of the aspects of the film that created such an outrage and controversy when it was initially released was the fact that unlike almost any other film of its day, director Browning chose to use real life human anomalies to portray the characters of the story.

Today, this makes the film an interesting contradiction in that it is at once both an exploitation film and an empathetic look at the lives of those who are rejected by the mainstream culture.  However, ironically the film which served as a cautionary tale about judging one based upon appearances was almost unanimously panned by critics who had no desire to see “living monstrosities projected on the screen“.  During later years as viewers re-examined this flawed masterpiece of vintage shock cinema, they were struck by the seeming contradiction of a film that exploits the subjects that it attempts to advocate.  In spite of this controversy and indeed partially because of it, the film has endured for 80 years now and is regarded as a classic of horror cinema.

Director Tod Browning and a few members of his beloved consortium of freaks.  This promotional photo was taken on the set of the 1932 film, which would gain notoriety among filmmakers and critics, as well as shine a light (a somewhat unflattering one) on what goes on behind the scenes at the circus sideshow.

Yet the real stories of the sideshow freaks and the characters that populated the world of the carnevale spectacular are perhaps just as unbelievable and shocking as those of their fictional counterparts in Browning’s Freaks.  These “freaks” and others have been resurrected via the skilled hand of modern symbolist painter Gail Potocki in a series of paintings that must be seen to be believed.  So, if you dare read on, and you must, I shall share with you a glimpse into a world of grotesqueries, oddities, and anomalies that once scandalized the general public and left the faces of outsiders forever emblazoned in the minds of the world.

Continue reading

Heavy Metal Meets Heavy Art

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Gail Potocki, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 20 January, 2012 by SeanChase

Art and music.  Music and art.  Both mediums require not only inherent talent and dedicated practice, but also of an understanding of human emotions and ideas.  The two compliment one another well, and why shouldn’t they?  For centuries, artists have taken their inspiration from song and sought to endow their work with a visual lyricism just as composers and musicians have aspired to paint images in the minds of those that listen to their music.  But sometimes art and music come together unexpectedly.

Gail Potocki is an immensely talented contemporary Symbolist painter whose artwork is daringly original and yet evocative of the great painters of the 19th Century.  Metallica is arguably the most successful American heavy metal band ever and their long career has been rewarded with multiple awards, bestselling albums, and a worldwide fan base.  Who would have predicted that two seemingly different creative forces would come together?

Today, January 20th, 2012, one of Gail’s paintings will be prominently featured at the opening of an art exhibition held at Exhibit A Gallery.  The exhibition is called Obey Your Master:  Art Tribute to Metallica and will showcase a diverse group of artists with eclectic influences as they use the visual medium to pay homage to the popular metal band’s songs.  Each piece of artwork will be an interpretation or celebration of one of Metallica’s songs.  While Gail’s painting for this show has been revealed on the gallery’s website, the title of the painting has been kept a mystery to all until the showing.

Here is her painting,  “Through the Never,  inspired by the song of the same name of the self-titled fifth album by Metallica.

"Through the Never" by Gail Potocki (2011, Oil on linen, custom frame).

All that is, was and will be
Universe much too big to see
Time and space never ending
Disturbing thoughts, questions pending
Limitations of human understanding

Too quick to criticize
Obligation to survive
We hunger to be alive

Twisting, turning through the never
All that is, ever
Ever was, will be, ever
Twisting, turning through the never
– Metallica
in the song “Through the Never

When asked why she chose this particular song, Gail answered, “I chose this song because it had somewhat vague and abstract lyrics and fit well with how I like to approach my paintings.”  She went on to explain the symbolic motifs in her painting and how they correlate with the lyrics.  “The lyrics of this song seem to be meditations on the idea of eternity and mortality and that was the direction that I took this painting in.  For example, the octopus has been used in many cultures to represent the unconscious and the universe, so I placed the tentacles behind the woman to represent the never ending cosmos.”

A detail from Gail Potocki's "Through the Never" showing in close-up: the tentacle, the black bird, the woman with the poppies, and the needle passing through her hand.

Detail of "Through the Never" in which the lifeline thread can be seen tightly wound around the woman's thumb, cutting off her circulation, and foreshadowing her demise.

“The red poppies strung around her neck are a symbol of oblivion.  One end of the string is wrapped around her finger and it begins to turn blue.  This foreshadows the inescapable inevitability of death.  The needle, on which the poppies are thread, pierces through the lifeline on the woman’s right hand while her blood flows down and in to the mouth of the black bird below.  This to me represents the continuous cycle and flow of all life.”

Another detail of Potocki's "Through the Never". This one shows the precision with which she created the black bird that is both the ultimate manifestation of the beginning, the end, and a new beginning... life, death, and rebirth.

The broken egg on the tail of this bird represents renewal and birth.  I used a blue light radiating from a unidentified source on the left side of the painting to further represent the idea of the mysterious unknown.  I tried to have a reason for everything in this painting;  there is very little that was included for aesthetic purposes alone.

Looking over Symbolist and Art Nouveau works of the past can provide further insight into Gail’s masterful approach to her painting.

In Carlos Schwabe's "Spleen et Idéal" (1896), one can see similar visual motifs such as the violent waters, the menacing and inescapable tentacles, and the wings. This painting by Schwabe, was by no coincidence, also inspired by another medium. Its themes and title were appropriated from Charles Baudelaire's poem found in his book "Les Fleurs du Mal" (The Flowers of Evil), which deals with decadence, sensuality and the inevitability of death.

In this Jugendstil poster for "Frommes Kalender" by Koloman Moser, you can see a combination of Symbolist and Art Nouveau styles. The Ouroboros (the circular self-devouring serpent) is an ancient symbol that is often found in Hermetic iconography. It can represent numerous ideas such as the ongoing cycle of life in which the older generation is consumed by the younger generation, or spiritual renewal, but it has also been used by some to suggest the transcendental concept of the psyche overcoming the limitations of the body or the physical world. In this case, the ouroboros is accompanied by an hourglass, a symbol of time and mortality, while the beautiful woman dressed in dark could be interpreted as holding it as the key to her own longevity.

After acknowledging the long tradition of artists interpreting music, lyrics, and poetry into visual medium I became curious as to what Gail’s favorite example of this might be.  Here’s what she had to say: “All the 19th century Symbolist painters were heavily influenced by the literature and poetry of their times.  I love so much of it, but I am particularly fond of Fernand Khnopff‘s ‘I Lock the Door Upon Myself‘ which was inspired by Christina Rossetti‘s poem ‘Who Shall Deliver Me?  His painting pays homage to her work but is an incredible painting in its own right.

Fernand Khnopff's 1891 painting "I Lock the Door Upon Myself" inspired by poet Christina Rossetti's poem "Who Shall Deliver Me?" written in 1876. Khnopff was a Belgian Symbolist painter and he followed very much in the footsteps of the British Pre-Raphaelite movement, of which Christina Rossetti's brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was a founding member.

Gail’s painting “Through the Never” and other contemporary works of art inspired by Metallica can be viewed at Exhibit A Gallery during the public viewing from January 23rd – March 23rd.

Exhibit A Gallery
Address: 1086 South Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90019
Phone #: (323) 954-7295
Open Monday – Saturday: 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
For more info, please visit:  http://www.exhibitagallery.com/


– Sean

Bridging Past and Present with Jeremy Bastian

Posted in Century Guild Contemporary, Grand Guignol, Jeremy Bastian, Olympian Publishing, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 17 January, 2012 by SeanChase
"The Griffon" Jeremy A. Bastian

“The Griffon” (Ink on paper, 2009) is but one example of Jeremy A. Bastian’s love of the mythical and necessity for detail.

Unless you’re a diehard comic book enthusiast or an avid student of art history, it might at first be difficult to imagine what comics and fine art really have in common.  Comics tend to be denigrated as merely pop culture kitsch or kids’ stuff.  And with all of the superheroes in colorful costumes, the Saturday morning cartoons, and the whole hub of merchandising aimed at children and adolescents, it’s not hard to see why someone might arrive at such a conclusion.  On the other hand, fine art has been elevated to the pinnacle of creative innovation and self-expression for most cultures around the globe.

"The Manticore" Jeremy A. Bastian

Another example of Bastian’s detailed and whimsical take on classic mythical creatures: “The Manticore” (Ink on paper, 2009).

If you ask any true comic book fan if there’s more to the medium in terms of artistic or literary merits, they will promptly and adamantly attempt to persuade you of the cultural and social significance of comics.  Similarly, not all comic fans may have an appreciation or understanding on the finer points of classical art much to the chagrin of art critics.  Yet, there is a strong correlation between the two, though neither group of enthusiasts will necessarily admit to it.  So, how does one bridge antiquity with modernity, the past with the present, and unite two groups of people who may have more in common than either recognize?
The answer is simple:  Jeremy A. Bastian.
Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 110 other followers