Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Card Art by my Students

I teach art to high school students. This is an assignment I give to my 2D Art I class every year. As usual, they did a great job. Here are a few examples. This class typically has a lot of freshmen in it, but some older kids as well.

Carmel L.

Merissa D.

John C.

We don't generally do anime/manga in class, but there are a few times like this project where it's okay.

Corinne G.

This picture is kind of unusual for a Christmas / holiday card, but I like it. Have a creepy holiday!

Eva R.

If you would like to see work from this assignment last year, click here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday at Revolution

In 2004, working towards my masters degree in art education at Wayne State University in Detroit, I took a class called Art Trends and Art Education. One of the things we had to do was go to some galleries and write reviews of our visits. Today being Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), I was reminded of Black Friday 2004, when I visited the Revolution Gallery in Ferndale, where I reside. The following is my review of that visit.


Rick Jacobi
AED 7400 Art Trends
Review #4
November 30, 2004

Black Friday at Revolution: The Evolution of a Gallery
(Plus quick stops at Lemberg and Susanne Hilberry)

First of all, I have to point out that I’m having a little fun with the title of this paper- it’s not as ominous as it may seem. “Black Friday” is the term many retailers use to denote the day after Thanksgiving- the biggest day of the year for many of them, the day that gets them “out of the red” and puts them “into the black”. “Black Friday” was the day I paid a visit to Revolution in Ferndale. I was the only one in the gallery; I guess everyone was doing their Christmas shopping at the mall. Although gallery traffic was slow, it was to my advantage as it gave me an opportunity to have a good conversation with the Gallery Director, Paul Kotula.

The previous papers I have submitted for this class have all taken a close look at a specific artists or works of art. This paper will be a little different: I would like to discuss my perceptions of the evolution of Revolution, and make a few comments on the gallery scene in Ferndale.

Revolution opened in 1994 in Ferndale. I had been living in Ferndale for about five years at that point in time, and continue to reside there. I remember riding my bike down the alleyways on the west side of Woodward Avenue north of Nine Mile one day several years ago, and stopping to take a look at a building that was being renovated. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was to become a new gallery in town- Revolution. Some number of weeks or months later, the gallery opened. I soon paid them a visit.

I don’t have a real clear memory of my first visit to Revolution, but I do recall seeing some teapots. Much of what the gallery then exhibited was work in clay, according to Kotula, who has been Director since the gallery’s inception. I also recall seeing over the next few years, work that was more conceptual and/or minimalist in nature. So much so, in fact, that my visits into the gallery became less frequent- more often than not, I would simply stop and peer through the front window while on my evening bike rides. It was a rare occasion that I would see anything of interest to me. In fact, I recall thinking many times, how do these guys stay open? I can’t believe that they are selling much of this stuff!” One piece I recall was a front window full of old suitcases stacked one on top of another. I asked Kotula about this piece. He recalled it fondly, and made some comments about “what is was about”. I said to him, “So, does anybody ever actually buy a piece like this?” Kotula laughed and said, no, not really for the most part. I asked him the same question about installation pieces and the like. He said no, pieces like that would be hard to sell, but “they exist in our memories”.

Since leaving my job as an illustrator and becoming a high school art teacher, I have figured (even before taking this class) that it would be a good idea to get out and go to some galleries a bit more frequently. Happily, there are several in Ferndale: Susanne Hilberry, Batista, Lemberg, and Revolution among them. All of these galleries feature a lot of strong work, sometimes accessible, sometimes more challenging.

What I have seen within the past couple of years in all of these galleries, is, despite a still fairly healthy dose of art that may be “difficult” for some people (myself included), is a significant amount of art that is leaning more towards going back and re-examining some of the types of art that it seems to me were pretty much “out of style” a few years ago- figurative painting and realism for example.

While I spent most of my time at Revolution on “Black Friday”, I also made quick stops at Lemberg (next door to Revolution) and Susanne Hilberry. Lemberg was featuring the work of photorealist painter Robert Gniewek. Gniewek has created a series of paintings of scenes from around Detroit, ranging from the glitzy Fox Theater to abandoned homes in Brush Park. These paintings show us the “up” and “down” side of Detroit, painted in meticulous detail.
Susanne Hilberry is currently presenting the work of painter Robert Wilbert. His oil paintings, although nowhere near photorealist, would still fall into the realm of realism. Wilbert’s work is divided into two rooms: one room consists largely paintings of floral arrangements. (I noted that a great many of these had been sold.) The other room featured mostly figure paintings. Some were more or less straightforward portraits, while others were more enigmatic, featuring human figures with manikins or a goat. Spheres of various sizes and colors also strangely populate a number of these paintings. I asked Ms. Hilberry about the spheres. She said that the artist claims that they are merely compositional devices, that he just likes spheres. She raised her eyebrows and shrugged. I said, “I take it that you think that there is more to it than that.” She replied, “Well, I have known him for thirty years, and he has always maintained that the spheres don’t have any real meaning, but you kind of have to believe that they do in some way.” As I said, enigmatic.

Robert Gniewek, Fox

Robert Wilbert, Self-portrait with Mannequin

Back to Revolution. Revolution is currently featuring the work of two artists: Michael Lucero and Amy Vogel. Lucero (in the front room) has made a number of fairly large (3-4 ft. tall) pieces of figures made of clay, covered with multi-colored yarn, including a unicorn, sheep, elf with kitty, kangaroo, and puppy. The forms of these figures are reminiscent of children’s toys or cartoon characters, while their surface decoration is perhaps more reminiscent of folk art. These pieces are unique, powerful, and beg to be touched, as evidenced by the “do not touch” signs next to each piece.

Michael Lucero, Elf with Kitty

Vogel’s work is in the second room. She has a series of paintings (and a sculpture or two) that, quite frankly, I was not at all drawn to and spent little time looking at.

Amy Vogel, (untitled)

I moved on to the back room, where there were a number of pieces by several different artists. Immediately catching my eye was a table, covered with huge, massive slabs of mainly reddish and whitish paint. I asked Kotula about this piece. He said that it was one of a series of “palette paintings” by Scott Richter, and was titled Hamburg Palette (for Soutine)”. Soutine frequently used red and white in his paintings, and Kotula noted that this piece by Richter specifically references Soutine’s painting Carcass of Beef. Is this piece a painting or a sculpture? It defies categorization (as does much of what Revolution has to offer).

Scott Richter, Paint Slab II

I was also intrigued by a couple of paintings by Peter Williams. Although he was not originally from Detroit, Williams lived here for several years, and taught painting and art history at Wayne State University. Williams’ work deals with racial issues through the use of symbolism and the inclusion of elements of pop culture, such as Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Kotula pointed out that many of Williams’ paintings feature a character Williams refers to as “Ratman”, who acts as Williams’ alter ego and is a play on Mickey Mouse. These paintings have a look of stylized realism and are related to surrealism and contemporary pop art as well.

Peter Williams, Opera Bouffe

I also enjoyed a piece called Torso, by “Cass Corridor” artist Jim Chatelain. An assemblage of painted wood, this piece is abstract, but seems to reference an animal of some sort. We can see what appear to be feet, and the brownish colors with a pattern of black marks are suggestive of the markings of some sort of cat or other mammal perhaps.

I said to Kotula that perhaps I was wrong (particularly in light of my admittedly irregular and relatively infrequent visits), but it seemed to me that over the course of the years, I had a sense that there has been a bit of a shift in the kind of work that has been shown at Revolution. I said (as mentioned previously) that my recollection of what was being shown in the earlier years was a pretty healthy amount of work that was more conceptual and/or minimalist in nature; while more recently, it seemed to me, I was seeing more diversity in styles, and in fact had been somewhat surprised, given the gallery’s history, to even see some realistic works there as well. Kotula said that to a fair extent, that what I was saying was true. He said that he had some significant financial backing over the first three years that allowed him to be a bit more freewheeling in his selection of work, and that played a part in it. He did state, however, that he was not ever catering to a specific market, but that he has always brought into the gallery work that he enjoys. He said that what has interested him has changed and evolved over the last ten years, and this is reflected in what he brings into the gallery.

Although Revolution is located in Ferndale, Kotula said that less than five percent of their sales go to Ferndale residents. Many of his customers are from other parts of the metropolitan Detroit area, and he has been able to do a lot of out of town business as well, as the gallery’s visibility
and reputation has increased.

I thanked Kotula for being so generous with his time, and told him that I was glad to have such a vital and committed gallery located in Ferndale.

It should be noted that while he is the Director and to a large extent runs the gallery, he is not the actual owner or sole force behind Revolution:

Kotula shares a collective vision with assistant director Sandra Schemske, owner Meg LaRou and Joanne Park-Foley. The success of Revolution for the past decade is testament to the strength of this group. Kotula says LaRou’s financial commitment is vital, calling her a “patron to the community.” Certainly Revolution would not have its impressive collection without her (Robinson, 2004).

Ferndale is indeed fortunate to have a good selection of fine galleries, and most of them can thank Revolution for boldly leading the way. I will be visiting Revolution and the other Ferndale galleries on a regular basis in the future.

Kotula, P. (2004). Director, Revoultion. Conversation at the gallery on Friday, November 27, 2004.
Robinson, P. (2004). The Enduring Revolution. Metro Times, February 2, 2004. Retrieved November 27, 2004, from


Unfortunately, Revolution closed its doors in 2005. You can read about it here.

Lemberg Gallery

Susanne Hilberry Gallery

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fractal Art

I have just not had the urge to write anything here lately, but I thought it was about time to at least post some images. If you would like to know what fractals are all about, click here.

Do yourself a favor, and CLICK ON THE IMAGES to view at a larger size!

Thank you to all of the artists for allowing me to share these beautiful images with visitors to my blog. Please check them out:

(If I missed anyone, let me know, and I will create a link to your website.)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hope, no. Despair, YES!

Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Anything Can Be Art redux

As far as I am concerned, the following material speaks for itself.

From BBC News online:

Artist pulls bus with his big toe

An artist who previously pushed a monkey nut along the road with his nose for seven miles has pulled a bus 30m with his toe.

Mark McGowan, 38, dragged the 7.5 tonne vehicle on Wednesday in Camberwell, south London.

The stunt was in protest against bus lanes and mayor Ken Livingstone's "ridiculous traffic strategy".

The Big Toe Bus Pull began at 1000 BST and Mr McGowan made several attempts before completing the task.

In September last year the fine art graduate rolled a monkey nut with his nose from Goldsmiths College in New Cross, south London, to the door of Number 10 Downing Street to protest against student debt.

It took him 12 days to complete his challenge, with him covering about three-quarters of a mile every day.

He has also sat in a bath tub full of baked beans, with two chips up his nose and sausages wrapped around his head for 12 days to celebrate English culture and food.

Speaking about the bus stunt, Mr McGowan from Peckham, south London, said: "This project was a protest against the excessive use of bus lanes and against mayor Ken Livingstone's ridiculous traffic strategy.

"It is stupid that our all ready narrow roads are being carved up, causing endless road nightmares for car drivers."

The bus had a driver for health and safety reasons.



Again, from BBC News online:

Artist vandalises cars with key

An artist who randomly vandalised nearly 50 cars for a project said the owners should be happy they were part of his "creative process".

Mark McGowan, 37, will exhibit pictures of himself scratching the vehicles' paintwork in London and Glasgow.

He said he had "keyed" 17 cars in Glasgow's West End in March and 30 in Camberwell, south London.

The Met police said the act was criminal damage and if allegations are made they will be investigated.

Mr McGowan added: "I do feel guilty about keying people's cars but if I don't do it, someone else will.

"They should feel glad that they've been involved in the creative process. I pick the cars randomly.

"I got the idea when my sister and brother-in-law's cars were keyed. Is it jealousy that causes someone to key a car? Hatred? Revenge?

"There is a strong creative element in the keying of a car, it's an emotive engagement."

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "Clearly this would be criminal damage and if we receive any allegations we will take them very seriously and investigate."

Meanwhile, Strathclyde Police said: "We are aware of Mr McGowan and have no comment to make at the moment."

His work will be displayed on Wednesday night in a launch party at The Arches, an exhibition venue in Glasgow.

Monkey nut

It is the latest in a string of bizarre stunts by the postgraduate in history of art from the prestigious Goldsmiths College in London.

Mr McGowan, who has described himself as "the British alternative to David Blaine" nailed his feet to an art gallery last year - in protest against leaves.

In 2003, he attracted the media's attention when he pushed a monkey nut with his nose for seven miles to 10 Downing Street in a protest over student debt.

Michelle Jordan, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Arts Council, said it was unlikely Mr McGowan would receive any funding.

"He is more likely to get a visit from Strathclyde's finest than any funding from us."


Youtube video of monkey nut—

Here are a couple of Qs & As from an interview with McGowan conducted by Brian Sherman of MYARTSPACE>BLOG

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "When I was an in patient at a mental hospital I started doing art therapy."

Q. Can you share some of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

A. "Painting is for girls and losers."

Link to complete interview:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Art or Not Art?

My apologies to anyone who may be a regular or semi-regular visitor to my blog. I have not posted in over a month. I have been 1) very busy with the first few weeks of the school year, and 2) have, for whatever reason, just not been inspired to post anything.

So, what can we talk about today? Hmmm... I know, let's play one of my favorite games... Art or Not Art?

It's easy to play. All you have to do is look at the pairs of images below, and for each pair, determine which piece is not art. Show me (and other readers/viewers of this blog) how artistically sophisticated you are by determining the correct answers and leaving a comment. You may simply answer "A" or "B" for each item, but please feel free to give an explanation for your answers if you wish.

Number 1:



* * * * *

Number 2:



Don't be shy, leave your answers by clicking below on the word "comments".

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Down the Rabbit Hole of Visionary Art: Abdul Mati Klarwein, Ernst Fuchs, & Alex Grey

If you are reading this, you are no doubt aware of the enormous impact the Internet has had in recent years in terms of the accessibility of information in any number of different areas.

In the political arena, the role of the mainstream media is playing an ever-decreasing role, due to the large amount of information online-- whether you lean to the left or the right or to another direction altogether, you'll find a ton of information that is right up your alley. The political action on the blogosphere and other Internet political sites has simply exploded. No longer are people forced to rely on the mainstream media outlets for their news and political information.

In like manner, artists are no longer limited to the mainstream art magazines, such as Art in America, Artforum, etc. The periodical market has seen the rise of alternative art mags like Juxtapoz and New American Paintings, both of which I highly recommend. But again, as in politics, in the world of new and alternative art, the Internet is where the action is.

Anyone who has read this blog to any extent knows that my taste in art is pretty eclectic. In recent years, as I have more or less left the world of commercial illustration behind (my former career), I have been digging increasingly deeper into a wide range of different types of art. One of my favorite artists is the visionary/surrealist painter Abdul Mati Klarwein. I had the good fortune to be introduced to his work in the 1970s, and have previously featured him on this blog (click here to go to that page). Through looking at Klarwein's work on the Internet, and then following one link after another, I have discovered that there is a significant art movement that exists more or less underground-- this movement (for lack of a better term) is generally referred to as visionary art. I have fallen down the rabbit hole.

Klarwein, Astral Body Awake, 1969

Visionary art is actually a fairly broad term; visionary artists find inspiration in a number of ways-- from dreams, meditation, religious/spiritual experience, and sometimes through the use of what are referred to as entheogens, "psychoactive substances used in a religious or shamanic context" (as referred to by wikipedia). Visionary art has been around since humans first started creating images, some 30,000 years ago (much of this art [cave paintings, petroglyphs, etc.] is considered to have possibly been inspired by shamanic visions and/or the use of phychoactive plants). More recent visionary artists include Hieronymous Bosch (15/16c.), William Blake (18/19c.), and in the twentieth century, Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo.

Back to Klarwein... Klarwein's work has led me to an increasingly large number of artists working within the field of visionary art. Two of these artists have already been featured on this blog-- A. Andrew Gonzalez, and Luke Brown. I would now like to feature an introduction to the work of two very influential artists, Ernst Fuchs, and Alex Grey.

You will probably not see either of these artists in the pages of Art in America, but you might see them in Juxtapoz, and both have a significant presence on the Internet. Of the two, Grey, an American artist (1953-) is probably more well known in the U.S. There are a number of books of his art that are readily available, and he has also written an excellent book about his philosophy of art, The Mission of Art .

(click on image to zoom in)
Note: On his website, Grey is very specific about not reproducing his art without permission, so if you would like to see his art, follow the link below near the bottom of this post.

Ernst Fuchs

Fuchs (1930-) is, in a sense, the grand master of contemporary visionary art-- Klarwein and a number of other visionary painters such as Robert Venosa and Philip Rubinov-Jacobson have studied with Fuchs. Unfortunately, however, Fuchs, who is Austrian, has apparently not yet been discovered by any American publishers-- there is virtually nothing of his work in any books that are readily available in English. Happily, however, he has an extensive personal website, where you can see a wide range of his work. Grey also has an excellent and very comprehensive website. (I have recently learned, by the way, that Fuchs was featured in Avant Garde magazine in 1969, but look to drop some serious cash if you are looking for a copy.)

Fuchs working, 2000. Photo by L. Caruana

Fuchs with Dali

Crucification and Self-portrait, with Inge Beside the Cross, 1945

The Wedding of the Unicorn, 1952-1960

The Angel of Death Over the Gate to Purgatory, 1951-1956

Moses Before the Burning Bush, 1962
(click on image to zoom in)

The Transfiguration of the Resurrected, 1961-1982
(click on image to zoom in)

The Angel of History, 1992

In a world where the mainstream art world often has little interest in technical skill, the visionary painters typically are highly skilled artists—pretty refreshing, if you ask me.

Do yourself a favor, and check out the work of these two artists in more detail at their personal websites:

Ernst Fuchs, and Alex Grey.

A word of warning: be careful-- you may find yourself tumbling down the rabbit hole of visionary art!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Paul McCarthy's Dog Poo Creates Havok In Berne

I really don't know what to say about this, but I thought that it was worth sharing...

GENEVA (AFP) — A giant inflatable dog turd by American artist Paul McCarthy blew away from an exhibition in the garden of a Swiss museum, bringing down a power line and breaking a greenhouse window before it landed again, the museum said Monday.

The art work, titled "Complex Shit", is the size of a house. The wind carried it 200 metres (yards) from the Paul Klee Centre in Berne before it fell back to Earth in the grounds of a children's home, said museum director Juri Steiner.

The inflatable turd broke the window at the children's home when it blew away on the night of July 31, Steiner said. The art work has a safety system which normally makes it deflate when there is a storm, but this did not work when it blew away.

Steiner said McCarthy had not yet been contacted and the museum was not sure if the piece would be put back on display.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Now THIS is a work of art!

Jacobi, Weapons of Mass Destruction, mixed media, 2008

If you don't know what this is, ask a guitar player!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Opener of the Way

New painting, just completed (8/8/08).

(click on image to enlarge)

Jacobi, The Opener of the Way, 18" x 24", acrylic, 2008


The Opener of the Way
Psycho, Anubis

The Opener of the Way is the title of Robert Bloch’s first book, a collection of horror and fantasy stories, published by Arkham House in 1945. Bloch would be familiar to most people as the author of Psycho, from which Alfred Hitchcock’s movie of the same name was based. Bloch was also a member of the “Lovecraft Circle”. In Bloch’s story, the opener of the way was the jackal-headed Egyptian god of the dead, Anubis.

Robert Johnson at the crossroads, Muddy, and Jimi

The opener of the way; the gatekeeper at the crossroads. Legend has it that bluesman Robert Johnson “made a deal with the devil at the crossroads”. In the voodoo tradition of Haiti and New Orleans, the deity Legba is the gatekeeper of the gates to the spirit world, the opener of the way for the gods to possess their devotees. It is likely that the “devil” that Robert Johnson encountered was actually Legba (so the story goes). Johnson’s song Crossroads was popularized by Eric Clapton with the group Cream on their 1968 double album Wheels of Fire.

Voodoo has not been an uncommon theme in the blues. From Johnson, to Muddy Waters singing "I got a black cat bone, I got a mojo too, I got a John the Conqueror root, I’m gonna mess with you..." in the song Hoochie Coochie Man, to Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile, there is a powerful magic in this music.

The painting

This painting came about in a very spontaneous manner. I had nothing specific in mind when I started it, it just sort of unfolded on its own. (It started with a sketch, which can be seen on a post I made back on May 15.) As it progressed, I looked at it and thought, what is this thing? I pictured myself standing out in a field somewhere, encountering this strange entity that just materialized out of thin air. An apparition, an inter-dimensional being, or what? The legend of Robert Johnson came to mind… the crossroads… Legba, the opener of the way. Somehow, it fit. Legba is often depicted as an as an old man on a crutch or with a cane, wearing a broad-brimmed straw hat and smoking a pipe, or sprinkling water. If this is a picture of Legba, he could be “shape-shifting”, or perhaps this is just one of his many faces.

Then again, this painting could be about something altogether different…

Note: included in this painting you will find the all-seeing eye, the alchemical symbols for fire and for air, and the golden ratio a couple of times (appearing once by chance [to my surprise, when I realized it], and once by intent[inspired by my discovery]).