We all know Kurt Cobain as the main brain and all around awesome leader of the band Nirvana, but he was not only a musical artist, he was a visual artist too. Kurt had expressed his interest in going to art school throughout his life and he dedicated many hours to making comics, paintings, drawings, sculpture, collages, cover art for Nirvana, and even designing the band’s music videos. His work reflected ideas of surreal situations that were inspired by death, carnage, biology, and pregnancy. Although some subjects seem dark to the average viewer, the meanings reflect his curiosities which are often miscommunicated as Kurt having a dark and twisted personality.
Goofy and Donald Duck Drawings by Kurt
Kurt displayed in his childhood a talent for art by drawing caricatures of Disney characters. In his teenage years, Kurt enjoyed art class the best. He applied himself in art because of his passion and natural talent. Kurt would make art from any material whether it be conventional or unconventional, he also delved into filmmaking/video art. Kurt and his friends from high school liked to make horror movies.
Drawing by Kurt in 5th Grade
Below is a horror film by Kurt, Dale Crover, and Krist Novoselic.
Kurt opposed Reaganomics and in high school drew a caricature of him, he also drew punk rock inspired figures and monsters all of which had surreal qualities.
Reagan Caricature, Punk Rock Figures, Sumo Wrestler Smashing a Guitar, Monster Figure (reminiscent of the Iron Maiden Album Cover for Killers)
Surreal Drawings by Kurt while in High School
He was the dominant decision maker and creative mind over Nirvana’s album art, promotional material, and music videos. He often would get frustrated when directors would try to morph his ideas into something opposite of his vision and promoted more mainstream friendly ideas. Kurt being an artist wanted his art to be his way, he had stories he wanted to tell with these videos. For example, Smells Like Teen Spirit was re-edited by Kurt after it was completed because he was dissatisfied with certain aspects of it. The video reflected the bands personality and this image of chaos. The video featured a high school pep rally gone crazy, revolution-like. The most intense part is the Janitor, because in case some readers do not know, after Kurt dropped out of high school he took a job as a Janitor at the same school…I just want everyone to think about that for a moment…
Kurt’s Visual Notes for Come As You Are, Set Design Drawings for Heart-Shaped Box, and Visual Direction for Heart-Shaped Box
Kurt’s most notable music video he created was, Heart-Shaped Box. This was his pride and joy during the creative process, his designs were very specific. The original director’s cut of the video was not used for the official release. When the video was released it ended up being criticized by some conservative viewers as inappropriate for television due to specific controversial symbols; the directors cut does have even more symbolism, so it could have been a decision based on if it would be allowed to be shown or just a visual conceptual choice to edit the video. After 20 years, the original version of the video was released and the video makes a little more sense because of the increased imagery. The edited version released only tells part of the story envisioned by Kurt, one can get the gist of what is going on, but when one views the original the message is full and clear (at least to me). The fact that people criticized this video because of content seems so outrageous now because all we see on MTV is half-naked exploited women and there is none of the kind in any Nirvana video. The band respected women and of course was anti-corporation etc. Despite having an edited version released and criticism, Kurt was very happy with the video and it went on to win various awards and earned them much praise from the music business. Here is a link to an interview with the Director of the video, Anton Corbijn, How Nirvana Shot the Heart-Shaped Box Video.
Kurt doodled many images of the band, in the early years he would fantasize album designs, advertisements, their “catch phrases”, and logos. He continued this throughout their career. Some of his drawings were silly and humorous and other creations turned into real materials for the band, for example, one of his paintings was used for the Lithium single.
Lithium Singles Cover
Kurt’s Drawing of the Band (Kurt, Chad Channing, and Krist Novoselic)
“Crack Babies” Nirvana Logo and Fetus Crack Baby Drawing by Kurt
Kurt’s Drawing of the Band ( Krist, Kurt, and Dave)
Kurt Cobain Self-Portrait Collage Drawing made from a Newspaper Comic about the Smells Like Teen Spirit Video
Artwork and design he did for Nirvana with the most visual power and reach were the album covers for Incesticide and In Utero. The cover of Incesticide is a painting by Kurt and the In Utero pamphlet art is a large sculptural arrangement of fetal models, flowers, and human body models which was inspired by Courtney’s pregnancy and his curiosity in this part of anatomy and physiology.
Kurt’s Painting for the cover of Incesticide
Final Cover Design for incesticide
In Utero Cover
Photo of Kurt’s sculptural collage of flowers, fetuses, and human body models for the In Utero album
Courtney and Frances next to the sculptural collage for In Utero
In Utero Back Cover with photo Kurt took edited
Heart-Shaped Box Singles Cover which is a collage by Kurt featuring the Heart-Shaped Box Courtney gave him
Fecal Matter Cassette Hand Drawn by Kurt
CD concept sketch in Kurt’s notebook
Kurt’s Fine Art side is what influenced his commercial work, but was free of restraint and allowed him to express himself as creatively as he wanted. He would construct sculptures out of old baby dolls and other various materials such as toys, posters, photos, cartoons, anything he felt was intriguing and would enhance a vision he had. One of my personal favorites is a sculpture of a suitcase with a white cloth holding inside a shattered Madonna figurine and Birth Announcement Dolls, it’s both surreal, haunting, and beautiful at the same time. His paintings also feature this haunting feeling with skeletal figures and bright high chroma colors to dark black and whites. Kurt’s skeletal figures could hint at his reflection of himself, Kurt was very thin and had a hard time gaining weight due to a stomach condition. He was self-conscious about his being thin, so he used to wear many layers to give the illusion that he weighed more. While I cannot conform this is the true meaning behind these figures, I do think it is a good theory to observe and discuss. In addition to sculpture, collage and painting, Kurt also loved to draw comic strips. The Mr.Moustache comic inspired the song Mr.Moustache which appears on the album Bleach.
Madonna with Birth Announcement Dolls
Baby Doll and Cow Sculpture
Painting Featuring a Black Hooded Figure surrounded by White Stick Figures Appearing Insane
Painting Featuring Surreal Imagery of a Fetus, Penis, and Various other Images
Continuing on with Russian Art, today I am featuring Imperial and Soviet Artists. The paintings start is late 17th – 18th century when Russia was exposed to Western European culture which heavily influenced their art, but soon took on their own styles as the 18th century settled in. Then to the end of the Russian Empire by artists who fled Russia due to religious oppression merging into the Soviet era when Lenin and Stalin had a heavy influence on the art produced in Russia. The styles vary from Rococo, Russian Impressionism, Social Realism, Cubism, Expressionism, Futurist, and Constructivist.
Imperial, Late 17th – 18th Century:
Ivan Argunov was born in 1729 in Moscow, Russian Empire. He came from a family of serfs, he particularly was under Count Sheremetev. He was raised by his uncle Semyon Mikhaylovich Argunov’s family. Argunov’s uncle was the steward of princess Cherkassky. Sheremetev was known for producing artists and architects. Georg Christoph Grooth one of the family portrait painters for Sheremetev had trained Argunov in portrait painting. Argunov was instructed to paint in the Rococo style which was brought into popularity by Western Europeans. He painted many important Russian officials and royalty including Catherine the Great. He has a very idealized flat stiff way of painting, but still remained a very delicate beauty to his figures. His most famous portrait is, Portrait of an Unknown Peasant who some believe was either and actress or singer of Count Sheremetev. Argunov later became a teacher and helped start the Russian School of Portrait Painting.
Dmitry Levitzky was born May of 1735 in Kiev, Russian Empire (Now Ukraine). His father, Grigory Levitzky was a clergyman and an engraver who was Levitzky’s first art teacher. Later on he became a student under Aleksey Antropov. Lewitzky became a prominent portrait painter after his first exhibition in 1770 at the Imperial Academy of the Arts in St.Petersburg. He was awarded the position as an academician and professor of portrait painting at the Academy of Arts after a successful painting of Alexander Kokorinov. Catherine II commissioned him to paint portraits of privileged women engaging in dance, music, and plays for the Smolny Institute for Young Ladies in 1772-1776. All of Levitzky’s portraits are in the Rococo Style. His paintings show movement, fluidity, and elegant grace. His figures have dimension and appear effortless. He depicted many Russian officials, royalty, and children. Levitzky was often commissioned, but severely underpaid by his patrons leaving him in poverty.
Valentin Serov was born January 19th, 1865 in St. Petersburg, Russian Empire. He is the son of Russian composer Alexander Serov and Composer Valentina Bergman who was of German Jewish heritage. He studied in both Moscow and Paris. Ilya Repin was one of his teachers along with Pavel Chistyakov at the St.Petersburg Academy of Arts. Serov was influenced by Russian and Western European artists combining them in his realistic yet impressionism figure paintings. He used elements of color, light, and ideas of an ideal perception of the world. His early works, The Girl With Peaches and The Girl Covered By The Sun are examples of his early introduction of the Russian Impressionism style. In the 1890’s Serov became very successful in portraiture. He enjoyed paintings, actors, writers, and fellow artists and was often commissioned by wealthy Russian’s and officials. He also enjoyed painting women and children due to their intimate and honest qualities. He often painted his wife Olga Trubnikova and their children. As the 20th century began the impressionistic style was falling out of favor in Russia, so Serov began to paint in a more Modern style, but the realistic nature of his models remained constant. During the Revolution of 1905-1907 he began to show his democratic beliefs and decided to resign his position at the St.Petersburg Academy of Arts to protest against execution of workers on strike and their families that took place January 9th, known as Bloody Sunday. He began to paint historical paintings and then soon evolved into mythology.
Konstantin Makovsky was born in Moscow, Russian Empire June 20th, 1839. His father, Yegor Ivanovich Makovsky was a Russian art figure and amateur painter. His mother was a composer. In 1851 he became a student at Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. He was highly influenced by Romanticism and decorative elements of the Rococo period. Along with art he also composed music, but painting proved to be his true passion. He also attended the Imperial Academy of Arts in St.Petersburg where he began to participate in exhibitions. His work is centered around the everyday life, but after a trip to Egypt and Serbia is art began to shift from social to more color and shape oriented. He also began to paint historical paintings. He was one of the most celebrated and profitable artists in Russia during his time. Some Russians felt his work was striking and shallow referring to him as a renegade of Wanderers’ ideals in art while others thought of him as a main figure of Russian Impressionism. His work reflected happy moments with children in gardens to soft portraits of women in detailed traditional Russian clothing. The moments depicted are peaceful and idealized. His work mostly shows Russian wealth, and uses strong graceful and joyful colors.
Vasily Perov was born January 2nd, 1834 in Tobolsk, Russian Empire. He was born an illegitimate son of baron Grigory Karlovich Kridener. He attended the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Perov received many awards for his work including one that allowed him to travel to Paris and Germany in 1862. While in Western Europe he painted street life. Three years later he returned to Moscow where he began to paint many famous masterpieces and was given a position at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. During this time he joined the painting group, The Wanderers. Perov’s work depicted everyday Russian life without idealizing it. He uses colors that reflect the moment, for example, Troika (Three Apprenticed are Taking Water) shows children pulling water barrels in cold gloomy snow. The tattered clothing honestly depicts they are poverty-stricken along with the dirty brown gray colors enhancing a dull harsh life and task they are partaking in.
Ilya Repin was born Augustin 5th, 1844 in Chuguyev, Russian Empire (Now Ukraine). His father, Yefim Vasilyevich Repin was a member of Imperial Russian Army as a private for the Uhlan Regiment. This military life had Repin enrolled in military school. He became a student of Ivan Bunakov who taught him how to paint. Repin went on to study at the Imperial Academy of Art where he began winning awards for his work. Repin’s work depicts Russian peasant life. He uses grays and browns to show the harsh working conditions and everyday life of these people. He too was a member of The Wanderers with Vasily Perov. Repin participated in the Salon in Paris, he became familiar with the impressionism movement, but felt it lacked in social purpose. He became good friends with writer, Leo Toltsoy who was one of his main supporters and claimed he depicted peasant life the best. In 1890 he was commissioned by the Academy of Arts to produce them a statue, but resigned do to them restricting the rights of young artists. He taught at both Higher Art School and the Academy of Arts, but it was sporadic. He was a supporter of the Russian Revolution in 1917 that dismantled the Tsarist autocracy forming the Soviet Union.
Soviet Era, 19th Century:
Raphael Soyer was born December 25th, 1899 in Borioglebsk, Tambov, Russian Empire. He was raised in an intellectual environment due to his father being a Hebrew scholar, writer, and teacher. Education and art was encouraged in the family. Due to the Russian Oppression of Jews by the Russian Empire they were forced to move to the Bronx, NY in the United States in 1912. Soyer attended the Cooper Union and National Academy of Design. He painted nudes, family, friends, he liked representational art and opposed the movement of abstract works. He considered himself a Social Realist and would depict men and women in contemporary life. His work was shown in the Whitney, Carnegie Institute, Cocoran Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and many more. His art in comparison with Russian Artists, he is a contemporary depicting everyday people just as Ilya Repin had done except Soyer’s depictions of men and women in New York City are in a colorful affluent nature.
Boris Vladimirski was born February 27th, 1878 in Kiev, Russian Empire (Now Ukraine). He attended the Kiev Art College and was first exhibited in 1906. Being a Soviet artist, his work was popular among Russia. His work was Social Realism that showed the ethics of the people, homes, and buildings. He also painted portraits of Russian officials. He took a risk with his work, Black Ravens, it shows how the Secret Police would kidnap people during the night. It was not in line with the ideals of the Soviet Realism regulations, but was passed by censorship committees and therefore allowed to be displayed. Vladimirski paintings are soft depictions of Soviet life. Sometimes his work have harsh colors, for example Lenin in Red Dawn, while other paintings can maintain grayed blue tones. The painting Roses for Stalin, is a clear example of Social/Soviet Realism used to show Stalin as a person concerned with Russian wellbeing and presenting him as a positive figure, paintings like this are known as Propaganda Paintings. Propaganda Paintings mask the truth and censor artists from depicting the actual reality taking place.
Marc Chagall was born July 6th, 1887 in Liozna, Russian Empire. (Now Belarus). His family was Jewish living in a highly populated Jewish area of Russia. His father was a herring merchant and his mother sold groceries. Chagall’s Hasidic Jewish upbringing influenced his art. When Chagall was a child Russian Jews were restricted from certain areas and schools. He attended a Jewish School up until high school, his mother paid a professor at a Russian high school 50 rubles to allow him to attend the non-Jewish school. He told his mother he wanted to become a painter, so he began attending a small school operated by Yuri Pen. Chagall soon realized he did not like formal portrait painting. Chagall did not want to hide his Jewish heritage in Russia and began incorporating it into his works. He moved to St.Petersburg in 1906 and was granted a passport to stay as Russian Jews were required to have one to be invited into the city. He attended Zvantseva School of Drawing and Painting, while there he discovered works by Paul Gauguin. He enjoyed his experimental works. Chagall moved to Paris in 1910 to develop more skills, he began to transform his works towards Cubism and Expressionism. Speaking only Russian, he often felt alone and would imagine being back in Russia. He began to paint Russian folklore and experiences in his Jewish community from these moments. He soon attended the Academie de La Palette where he discovered new works and influences from the French painters. He continued to paint Russian themes into his cubist style because he missed his homeland. He soon returned home to marry his fiance Bella, they could not leave because of the war and went onto have their first child, he became determined to become successful to support them. As the Russian Empire formed into the Soviet Union Chagall became one of Russia’s most distinguished modernist artists. Despite his success in Moscow, he and his wife decided to move to France in 1923 to better living conditions. When World War II broke out and Nazi’s were occupying France, Chagall and his family were given forged passports among many other famous Western European artists to seek refuge in America. Chagall’s expressive colorful style is mesmerizing with deep saturated hues. The subjects are heavily influenced of Russian folktales and clearly represent Chagall’s love for his heritage. I and the Village shows his personal connection to the villages while Calvary connects with his religion, this pattern continues throughout his body of work.
Nikolai Baskakov was born May 8th, 1918 in Astrakhan, Soviet Union. His father was a carpenter while his mother stayed at home. He attended the Astrakhan Art School, but was soon drafted into the Red Army and sent to the Far East. After his time in the draft he came back to Leningrad and enrolled in the painting program at the Leningrad Institute of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture the former Imperial Academy of Arts. He became a permanent artist exhibited at the Leningrad Art Exhibitions. He painted portraits, genre, landscape and historical works from life. He became a member of the Leningrad Union of Soviet Artists and prominent in painting portraits of Lenin. He wanted to show Lenin in crucial moments of Russian history. He also depicted everyday Russian life in charming points of view. His work is modern and realistic with bright vivid colors.
Elena Mikhailovna Kostenko was born August 9th, 1926 in Leningrad, Soviet Union. Kostenko’s father, Mikhail Kostenko was a prominent scientist in the USSR. She attended the Leningrad Secondary Art School and the Leningrad Institute of Painting. She became mainly a portrait painter and showed in many exhibitions during the 50’s and 60’s. She depicted mainly children that were colorful and inviting. Her work was supported by its thrilling nature of being full of life and excitement, yet also capturing mellow moments. Her children often modeled for her, she showed Soviet life through the eyes of children and their imaginative and innocent stages. She is a member of the St.Petersburg Union of Artists formally known as the Leningrad Branch of Union of Artists of the Russian Federation.
Alexander Rodchenko was born December 5th, 1891 in St.Petersburg, Russian Empire. He was raised by a working class family and later moved to Kazan after his father’s death. He studied art at the Kazan Art School of which he met his future wife, Varvara Stepanova who became a famous Russian textile and fashion designer. Rodchenko continued studying art at the Stroganov Institute in Moscow. His work was inspired by Cubism and Futurism. The Bolshevik Government gave him the position of the Director of Museum Bureau and Purchasing Fund and he was also a member of the Productivist/Constructivist art movement along with his wife to promote practical artworks that are socially useful. He ended up giving up painting to concentrate on graphic design. He used found images combined with his graphic design works featuring heavy reliance on basic bold colors and geometrics. He also would photograph his own work to combine with his designs. In the 1930’s political powers that governed artists work was changing and prompted a shift in his subjects to sports and parades instead of social themes expressed by Constructivist art movement.
Zinaida Serebriakova was born December 12th, 1884 in Neskuchnoye, Russian Empire (Now Ukraine). She was raised in a heavily artistic family. Her grandfather was Nicholas Benois who was a famous architect in Russia and her uncle Alexandre Benois was a painter while her father was a sculpture and her mother was good at drawing. One of her brothers became an architect while another brother, Yevgeny Lansere was a master painter and graphic designer for the Soviet Union. Serebriakova attended the Academie de la Grand Chaumiere. She expressed the beauty of Russian land and the people. Serebriakova painted series of rural Russia and peasants. After the Revolution in 1917 her art changed drastically due to the death of her husband and new-found poverty. She was taking care of her four children and mother and could not afford to continue oil painting. She began using charcoals and graphite. Her painting House of Cards, depicts her four children at play during this deperessive time. She refused to start creating work in the Futurist style which was becoming more popular in the Soviet Union. Her daughter began taking ballet classes at the Academy of Ballet which inspired Serebriakova to create various pastel drawings of the Mariinsky Theatre and it’s dancers. She ended up traveling to Paris in 1924 to do work on a commissioned mural, but was refused entrance back into the Soviet Union and was only allowed to have her two youngest children join her in Paris, the two older ones had to stay in Russia (they were later reunited when Russia permitted her older children to travel for a visit). Serebriakova traveled to Africa and her art began to depict the people of those areas. She later became celebrated as an artist in Russia, showing her work in 1966 of over 200 works. Her early oil paintings had rich colors with soft figures and when she began using pastels her figures became even softer with more etherial qualities. She showed Russian life from affluent, to poverty, to ballet.
Portrait of an Unknown Peasant, 1784, Ivan Argunov
Portrait of Anna Petrovna Naryshkin, Ivan Argunov
Portrait of Catherine II, Ivan Argunov
Portrait of Catherine the Great, 1762, Ivan Argunov
Portrait of Princess Ekaterina Alexandrovna Lobanova-Rostovskaya, 1754, Ivan Argunov
E. N. Khruschova and Princess E. N. Khovanskaya. 1773, Dmitry Levitzky
Ekaterina Nelidova, 1773, Dmitry Levitzky
Governor-General Yaroslavl and Vologda , 1795, Dmitry Levitzky
Portrait of Catherine II , 1782, Dmitry Levitzky
Portrait of A. D. Levitzkaya, Artist’s Daughter , 1785,Dmitry Levitzky
Portrait of Alexander Golytsyn, 1772, Dmitry Levitzky
Princess Zinaida Yusupova, 1900, Valentin Serov
Coronation of Nicholas II of Russia, 1896, Valentin Serov
Portrait of Konstantin Korovin, 1891, Valentin Serov
Portrait of Maria Akimova, 1908, Oil on canvas, Valentin Serov
S.M. Botkina, 1899, Valentin Serov
Portrait of Countess Maria Mikhailovna Volkonskaya, Konstantin Makovsky
Volkov’s Family, Konstantin Makovsky
“Muse of Poesie, 1886, Konstantin Makovsky
Portrait of Grand Princess Maria Nikolayevna, 1905, Konstantin Makovsky
Russian Beauty Wearing a Kokoshnik, Konstantin Makovsky
A Governess Arriving at a Merchant’s House, Vasily Perov
As many people are, I am a huge fan of the Winter Olympics and have been glued to the television cheering for athletes and mesmerized by the ice skaters artistically athletic abilities. One thing that has caused a stir in foreign broadcasting is the host city/country, Sochi, Russia. There has been much criticism and it irks me because I know people of my home country America sit upon their high horses and consistently judge others without looking back at themselves and their own gruesome history. I have always been intrigued by Russia, they are a unique country with a far different history from the rest with a huge journey ahead of them. There will always be negative events in a country no matter how far advanced and my hope is for all to gain equality and human rights. This is all I will say on behalf of my personal political stance.
Moving on, the main reason other than the inspiration by the Olympic criticism is my pure love of Russian Art. I simply could not choose between historical and contemporary, so I have decided to post multiple posts on the subject starting with contemporary. I felt because of the topic of human rights being a hot button issue I would start with Russian Artists who are directly linked to this subject.
Slava Mogutin, Dmitri Vrubel, and Dimitri Tsykalov are three Russian artists that have pushed boundaries in the art world and show influence from politics, violence, and human rights.
Slava Mogutin was born as Yaroslav Yurievich Mogutin on April 12, 1974 in the Siberian city Kemerovo, Russia. He moved to Moscow during his teenage years and took up writing. He worked as a journalist for an independent newspaper writing articles about activism and queer topics of which gained him critical acclaim and condemnation for being outspoken on topics that were seen as taboo and illegal. His articles written for Novy Vzglyad upset Russian conservatives bringing upon him criminal charges of: “open and deliberate contempt for generally accepted moral norms”; “malicious hooliganism with exceptional cynicism and extreme insolence”; “inflaming social, national, and religious division”; “propaganda of brutal violence, psychic pathology, and sexual perversions”. These charges could have landed him 7 years in prison, but Russian officials were outraged to the point that Mogutin was exiled from Russia.
At age 21 he was granted political asylum in the United States and soon moved to New York City (March 15th, 1995) where he began to create visual art instead of writing. Mogutin is a true Renaissance man working in multiple medias from Photography, Painting, Collage, Installation, Performance, to Video. He captures moments of people in time during etherial moments to S&M, recording both Gay and Straight lifestyles. His work is direct and non-apologetic just as the first line in his artist statement states; “Coming from a conservative and oppressive Soviet background, I examine the very concept of shame by being completely shameless.” His performance work, Russian-American Wedding is the best example of shame and shameless, for it shows himself and Robert Filippini at Palace of Weddings No. 4 in Moscow, Russia April 4, 1994 kissing in front of the building of which they try to obtain a marriage license. The director of the venue wanted to give them the license to be married, she was not against the union whatsoever, but Russian law prevented her from doing so.
Five years after Mogutin’s exile there was a regime change in Russia which dropped all criminal charges against him and allows him to come back to Russia. He states after this, he was now a hero, “The drunkard Yeltsin was gone, the entire power structure has shifted, my old criminal cases were dismissed, and all of the sudden I was treated like a hero. There was a whole new generation of Russians who grew up on my writings. I was awarded one of the most prestigious literary awards, invited to be a part of the Moscow Biennial and appeared on magazine covers and prime-time talk shows. But most importantly, I took lots of pictures that later became Lost Boys, my first book of photography” (Bruno, Slava Gets His Hands Dirty). This change shows the progress in Russia’s gradual acceptance of homosexuality. Mogutin continues creating art and his photography appears in many art magazines, he not only makes his personal work, but now photographs spreads on other Fine Artists, for example; Kehinde Wiley, Marina Abramovic, and Michael Stipe.
Here are links to interviews and articles on his work including his official website,
Dmitri Vrubel is a painter, he was born July 14th, 1960 in Moscow, Russia. He is known for his large mural paintings that depict Russian life from politics, poverty, religion, and drugs. His most famous work is, My God, Help Me Survive This Deadly Love which is a large mural painted on the East Side Gallery wall in 1990. It shows two communist officials, Lenoid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kissing taken from a photograph of this act that took place in 1979 during the 30 year celebration of the German Democratic Republic. The mural was vandalized over the years and in 2009 German authorities had the work painted over so it could be restored. Vrubel was commissioned to repaint the work and it is now protected from vandalism. In 2001 he created a calendar called, 12 Moods of Putin, which was an unexpected success in Moscow. Vrubel painted Putin because most think of him as a person with only a poker face and also because of his superstar status, of which political’s are in Russia. Pop Artists gravitate towards these people and depict them in which ever manner they like. For Vrubel it is somewhat cheeky, yet still acceptable. The calendar was distributed only to people within the Duma, Federation Council, and Kremlin. The original drawings were put on display in an exhibition at A5 Gallery except for a painting of Putin in his judo robes which had to be left out do to that Vrubel painted him with a pierced nipple.
Dimitri Tsykalov is an artist who was born in 1963 in Moscow, Russia. He now lives and works in Paris. Tsykalov uses unconventional materials to construct his work. In his Woodland collection he uses trees as the media, forming it into organs, televisions, lingerie, and complete rooms. Meat is a photographic series where nude models are shown with guns and amo constructed of meat. The powerful narrative relating death directly with meat expresses the barbaric nature of weapons and their intended use to kill living beings. The work is not directly linked to war, but represents all areas of violence that is tied to the use of guns and weaponry. The meat shows the goriness of these weapons without showing human carnage as a result of gun violence. He gets the point across with a new twist rather than a cliché photograph of a human with bleeding wounds. Violence and weaponry also return in the series, Skin which are animal hides constructed from ammunition boxes. His Skulls merge into the idea of the traditional still life and memento mori combining the media of fruit and vegetables with humanity. The fruits and vegetables age and die, just as a person does. The juxtaposition takes an age-old saying into a new visual. Tsykalov continues themes of life and death in multiple representations and merges into the political with Money, he has knitted various credit cards from different countries that represent their unraveling economies.
Zoë Mozert, the famed Pin Up aritst was born Alice Adelaide Moser, April 27, 1907 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Mozert attended the Philadelphia School of Industrial Design in 1925. She was famous for being a prominent painter/illustrator in the Pin Up art scene. Her works have appeared on many magazines and movie posters. She used live female models posed either nude or in character, they are depicted from sweet girl next door cheesecake to sultry and seductive. Mozert’s first nude Pin Up was purchased by Brown and Bigelow in 1941 for one of their Calendars. Her work continued to be purchased and commissioned for calendars and magazines throughout the World War II era. Perhaps her most famous calendar was of her complete works titled, Victory Girls produced by Brown and Bigelow.
Not only was Mozert famous for painting Pin Up women, but she herself would model. During her time at art school, Mozert would pose for other artists to earn money and she would also pose for herself using a series of mirrors and cameras to find the right angles.
Some examples of Mozert’s most famous works are movie posters for, True Confession with Carole Lombard, and The Outlaw with Jane Russell. As Mozert’s career strengthened she was placed in the Big Four (the four best Pin Up artists) alongside, Rolf Armstrong, Earl Moran, and Gil Elvgren. Mozert was the only woman amongst this group. Her success helped open doors for many women Pin Up artists, proving it was not a man’s subject, that women surely could create great work as well. Other fantastic women Pin Up artists include, Pearl Frush and Joyce Ballantyne, both of which had their own unique style on painting the Pin Up.
Today the Pin Up revival scene has a strong presence in underground art.Women dress in fashions influenced by famous Pin Ups icons, Betty Grable, Bettie Page, Marilyn Monroe and so on. Bettie Page Clothing is a line selling revival dresses of the 40’s and 50’s to preserve the Pin Up legacy, along with Esther Williams Swimwear, where you can buy revival swimsuits in many colors, patterns, and styles unique to the time. Women today also mimic old hair styles, the most popular being Victory Rolls and Pin Up Bangs, which are famously worn by contemporary celebrities like, Gwen Stefani and Katy Perry.
Artist’s continue to paint Pin Up’s as well as photograph them. Painter, Will Cotton is known for his Pin Up influenced paintings of women emerged in Candyland type fantasies. Photography businesses have even found the Pin Up photo shoot to be a profitable market consisting of a head to toe Pin Up makeover and a photo shoot. Shameless Photography in San Francisco/New York made the Pin Up shoots popular and are known for their Classic Pin Up, Boudoir, and Glamour stylings one can choose from. There are also magazine publications still dedicated to the scene, such as Pin Up America Magazine, The Pin Up Magazine, and Retro Lovely. Along with magazines, there is an online community called, Suicide Girls where Pin-Up and Alternative models can post photos and profiles of themselves, the models range from clothed to nude.
Zoë Mozert and her fellow Pin Up artists have left behind a hugely influential art scene spanning into an full fledged underground culture where the classic beauty of the 40’s and 50’s are preserved and loved. Louis K. Meisel Gallery is known for their preservation of the Pin Up who ran an extensive exhibition called, Great American Pin Up which showcased art, historical information, and books. The Pin Up will live on in many forms and the pioneers of the scene will forever be celebrated.
Below is a collection of Pin Up paintings by Zoë Mozert.
There has been a lot of press lately about the 2012 Biography released about Lee Krasner, so I have decided to write todays Art History Lesson post about her. Many people know Krasner as the wife of Jackson Pollock, some even say she lived in his shadow; that may have well been, but it did not stop her from gaining success as a painter, she was famous in her own right and her influence still lives on today in many ways different yet similar to Pollock’s. Lee Krasner was born October 27th, 1908 in Brooklyn, NY, she studied at Copper Union and National Academy of Design. Krasner painted in the Abtsract-Expressionist style. Like Pollock, Krasner was a praised and prominent artist in the Abstract-Expressionist movement. Her works have multiples layers of paint, sometimes chunky with swift movements. Some paintings appear more geometric while others exhibit more free-spirited approaches. Her colors range from high chroma pinks, reds, greens and blues, to muted black and white with splashes of grayed purples, blues, and yellows. Krasner’s paintings often mimic textiles which have influenced fashion designers for example, designer Erdem Mordalioglu in his Resort 2013 collection has created textiles and prints inspired by Krasner’s work. Although Krasner lived a tough life married to Pollock as his constant support and caretaker, she still continued to create her own work and become a successful influential artist of her time. Krasner’s work can be seen in major museum collections such as the MoMA (whom also displayed her work in a retrospective exhibit), MET, Guild Hall Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, and many more. The Pollock-Krasner Foundation was established in 1985, they offer grants to working artists who are experiencing financial hardships.