Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Future?

Last week Jan Kaplicky collapsed on a Prague street. Paramedics arriving on the scene were unable to save him. My wife, who is from the Czech Republic, has been hogging the computer for the last week reading the news and watching interviews with this man. I wasn't paying much attention, so it took me a while to realize who this "important" guy was. This was Jan Kaplicky! This was the radical architect who came up with the mind-blowing design for the new national library in Prague.

I had lost interest in the story about the proposed building when it looked like conservative members of the Czech government were going to put the kibosh on it. Apparently Kaplicky hadn't given up, because people close to him said that the stress of fighting hard to get his library built had contributed to his sudden death. Even though Kaplicky's London based architectual firm Future Systems had won the competition for the design of the Czech Republic's new national library fair and square, many Czechs were virulently opposed to The "Blob", as it was called.

The "Blob" was supposed to be built on a plain near the Prague Castle and the Old Town Square. Having been to Prague and seen it's wondrously preserved historic architecture, some of which has been standing since the 11th century I have to admit that, as much as I loved the idea of a giant protoplasmic library that can hold up to 10 million books, I had my reservations about it being so near these storybook buildings. But where would such a futuristic design belong? When you make a work of art you can't always be so concerned with convention, or you never move forward. Should all paintings match the couch? Maybe it would be nice to see the future as well as the past so well represented in this beautiful city.

Kaplicky's designs have been called "organic modernism". He got his inspiration from nature, and said that nature supplied and endless source of design for architects, and that it was high time man stopped living in boxes. His most famous completed building is the Selfridges department store in Birmingham England. He also design the award-winning Media Center for London's Lord's Cricket Grounds, a floating bridge, also in London, and a house in Wales that is partially submerged into a hillside. There's a wonderful portfolio of Kaplicky's designs at the Future Systems website.

When Kaplicky died last Wednesday he had just celebrated the birth of his daughter only six hours earlier. After leaving the Czech Republic in '68 after the Soviet invasion he had come back, hoping to finally build one of his revolutionary designs in his homeland. It's sad. Sometimes you can't "close the cirle". Sometimes you can't get a giant ameoba-like library built because of politics. Sometimes you try hard to get hired at a library and then quit because of politics and bullshit. You just never know.

"Soothsayer", 2009

16" x 12", oil on canvas panel

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bless this blog

A painting of a hand giving the sign of the benediction

"Your Blessened", 2009

16" x 12", oil on canvas board

A raised hand giving the benediction, the second in a series of paintings of hands I've been working on. I had an argument with my wife about the length of the palm. Most people's palms are longer than they think. The fingers look shorter from the inside of the hand. The scar on the wrist is real too. It makes this "blessing" a little ironic.

I took the name for the painting from a song off the Melvins' 1991 album "Bullhead". "Your Blessened": It's a play on words, I guess. You're not. I am your... nevermind. The Mighty Melvins are still going strong to this day. Below is a video of what the band is up to these days.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More Doughnuts and Robots!

a painting of two robots and a box of donuts

"On the Outside Looking In", 2009

16" x 12", oil on artboard

"Sparkling Mike" has gotten into a box of doughnuts, and "Chief Robot" stares through the plastic of the open top enviously. Another tribute to Eric Joyner. I guess I should give this robot/donut thing a rest, as it is his thing. Although, I was painting toy robots before I got reinspired by Joyner's work. Below are two examples from 2001.

a painting of robots and hula dolls

"Aloha Mr. Roboto", 2001

19" x 29", oil on wood

a painting of a toy devil a stuffed monkey and some toy robots

"El Diablo and the Monkey", 2001

18" x 27", oil on wood

Friday, January 2, 2009

Doughnuts and Robots!

a painting of two robots and a doughnut

"Break Fast!", 2008

16" x 12", oil on artboard

This is my tribute to Eric Joyner, an San Francisco artist who does more than anyone could ever imagine with the absurd theme of robots and doughnuts. I was having trouble thinking of what to paint next, so I thought I would give robots and doughnuts a try. It was a lot of fun. "Sparkling Mike" and "Chief Robot" race to be the first to intercept an unattended plain glazed left on a small breakfast table overlooking Jupiter and the belt of stale doughnuts that runs between the giant gaseous planet and its innermost satellites.