Sunday, January 30, 2011

Signs and Symbols

(Above) This “King Jesus” sign is super cool.

(Above) The white glow behind these heads make this sign pretty special, not to mention the hairstyles, which look almost like metal rods.

(Above) These mugshot style paintings above are quite nice. The colors, patterns and unique faces make this as funky as something one might find in a magazine like Juxtapoz.

(An Accidental Mysteries Blast from the Past January 11, 2009)

AFRICAN BARBER SIGNS, often painted by the shop owners themselves, have long been considered a form of folk art. What I like is the idiosyncratic nature of the signs, and the way they often use symbols as a way to communicate. For customers, one just walks up, points to a hairstyle and sits down. These signs, all in various sizes, are from Indigo Arts Gallery in Philadelphia, PA and originate from places like the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin and others. Sometimes these signs are found hanging in a marketplace stall, or simply hanging from a tree—with the barber standing next to a chair underneath. These signs not only advertise hair styles but other services as well (like shoe repair, as in the “King Jesus” sign above, one of my favorites).

The Museum of African Art in NY had an exhibition of these style of signs in the year 2000, as did the Fowler Museum of Cultural History at UCLA in 1995.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dried Citrus Sculptures by Daniel Watson

Click any image for larger view.
An Accidental Mysteries “Blast from the Past,” December 2008.

HERE ARE THREE PIECES OF TRUE OUTSIDER ART by a man named Daniel Watson, who is serving a life sentence in a California federal prison. In solitary confinement, Watson creates these strange items out of citrus skins. These 3 examples were done 10 years ago, in 1998. Described as “hovering somewhere between Pre-Columbian and alien,” these are good examples of his work. They were described by the past auction as being about 6 inches tall. Strange, skin-like and beautifully creepy, this just goes to show what one can do with a little time on his hands. I think they look a lot like Maiori designs for tattoos.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Take Another Look at Cigar Box Lids

An Accidental Mysteries “Blast from the Past,” December 16, 2008.

THANK GOD FOR OTHER PEOPLE’S COLLECTIONS, because I don’t have the money, space or time to collect it all. I do have the desire to collect it all, but left brain (and wife) says stop. I found a collector, Robert Madison, who apparently loves the beauty, variety and history of cigar box lids. His collection is enormous.

I am reminded of the cigar box that Tatum O’Neal (as “Addie”) carried in the movie Paper Moon. It was Cremo brand. It was the perfect metaphor for those few things she held dear to her life. She carried it—held it tight everywhere she went. As a kid, I loved cigar boxes. I guess I still do. Cigar boxes are the perfect size for kid stuff—baseball cards, crayons, coins, secrets—whatever. Cigar boxes are kid-sized—the way they open is lovely and inviting. And as far as design, they always look so regal and important. On the lid was usually an illustration or name of some mysterious, important person, almost always with a strange non-Anglo name. And, because the boxes were so substantial, people saved them more so than not. How many garages or workshops in the United States still have a cigar box to hold nails, screws and other flotsam from their projects? Cigar boxes last.

The examples I was drawn to from Robert’s substantial collection are the ones that have the tax labels applied along the side and over the lid. Is there anything sexier than breaking an official seal? I mean really! The samples I share with you today remind me of early 20th century collage. The labels, haphazardly applied compared to the perfection and order of the lid, interfere with and force themselves into the carefully planned cigar box “landscape.” That is what I love the most. The tax labels were never designed to work with the cigar box. They were there to serve an official function—like a price sticker or a bar code on a product today. Besides that, I am reminded of something else—the whole role that cigar bands and box labels did throughout the 20th century to inspire artists. One has only to look at the early collage art of Kurt Schwitters, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Joseph Cornell and others to see the influences. And most recently, the discovery of the work of Felipe Jesus Consalvos, a self-taught artist who worked in the first half of the 20th century.

Consalvos worked in a cigar factory and apparently had plenty of raw material from his work to use (cigar band papers). Influenced by the boxes themselves, he utilized a similar visual “framing and border” devices he saw everyday at his job. Of course, all of these artists, trained or self-taught, pushed their “cigar box and cigar band” influences much farther. Consalvos used real cut-up dollar bills, magazine photographs, old wedding photos and all kinds of ephemera to create his surreal, fantastic work.

Also, be sure and check out the faux wood grain on some of examples above— a device the surrealists used often.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Conceptual Photograph: The Art of Mole & Thomas

An Accidental Mysteries blast from the past (12/12/08).

ARTHUR MOLE AND HIS ASSOCIATE JOHN THOMAS would spend a week or more planning and assembling these fantastic photographs in the years during and after WWI. As a patriotic gesture to show American strength and to boost morale here at home, the team would first draw the outline they needed on their 11 x 14 inch view camera from a constructed tower some 70 feet high. By taking test photos of men standing shoulder-to-shoulder, say 10 or 20 men across and deep at various points, they could then calculate how many people were needed to complete a line. Then, they had to calculate whether the men were to wear dark or light shirts to complete the arduous task of making the tonalities of the picture correct. Look at the back part of any image
(click on image). Obviously, it took many more people to fill a row there than towards the front. Published reports of their projects say soldiers endured full days in wool uniforms standing in heat and other conditions for the pictures—probably a better task than fighting in the trenches of France, where a good portion of them ended up. The images were later sold to raise funds for the troops and care of the wounded when they returned.

Just to give you an idea of the number of people it took to make a few of these pictures, on the top row is the famous portrait of Woodrow Wilson, taken in 1918. This picture was composed of 21,000 officers and men at Camp Sherman, Chillicothe, Ohio.

On the bottom row, the photograph of the Statue of Liberty (1917) was composed of 18,000 officers and men from Camp Dodge in Des Moines, Iowa.

Next to that, is the Human Shield. It contained approximately 30,000 officers and men from Camp Custer, Battle Creek, Michigan.

I am doubtful a photo of this magnitude could be accomplished today. Originals sell in galleries for well over a thousand bucks. Like any photograph, condition of the picture is important.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Skate Board Culture Moves to Furniture

(Above) The Comet Coffee Table crosses skate decks together to give strength and a unique look. The sleek design of the glass with the decks makes it perfect for a living room. The Comet Coffee Table is made of a round glass top and 8 decks for legs. Diameter: 40” x High: 15.” Available in maple, walnut and colors.

(Above) The Astro Clock created with 12 skateboard wheels and bearings. Diameter: 17”, 1.5” depth.

(Above) The Hang Up coat hanger is made of coated metal wires with 8 skateboard wheels and bearings. Dimensions: 23.5 ”x 14” x 6.5”

(Above) The LKJ Bench: Hailing from the California lifestyle of longboard skate decks, this bench is not only practical, but it truly is a piece of art. This functional piece can be used as a low table or bench for a living room, bedroom or office. The LKJ Bench is a die-cut longboard deck with metal legs. Dimension: 55” x 14” x 11.”

(Above) The Jet Set Lounge Chair: Wrapped by neoprene which is the wetsuit material for surfers, this piece is created to the indoor/outdoor lifestyle and fits perfectly on a patio or waterfront deck. The Jet Set Lounge Chair is made of 8 decks with neoprene cushions on a metal frame. Dimensions: 33” x 29.5” x 60”

(Above) The Skate Bookshelves crosses skate decks together to give strength and a unique look on the wall. Perfect for a living room or bedroom. The Skate Bookshelves is made of 3 longboard decks horizontal and 3 decks vertical. Dimensions: 45” x 32” x 10.”

(Above) The Skate Wall features a pattern of a real size deck and will add a statement of clean style in any bedroom, office or lounge. Folding Dimensions: 96” x 30.”

(Above) The Stax Chair is made of 3 decks and bended pieces of plywood. Dimensions: 30” x 25” x 20.”

(Above) The Stax Loveseat is made of 3 longboard decks and bended pieces of plywood. Dimensions: 45” x 25” x 22.”

(Above) The Tokyo Lounge Table is made of a glass top and 4 decks that are re-shaped for legs. Dimensions: 44” x 34” x 10.1/2”, 3/4” glass. Please Note: The template of the deck is from the Jim Gray Pro Model (G&S Team Rider, 80’s era).

(an Accidental Mysteries replay from June 2009)

SKATE STUDY HOUSE MAKES FURNITURE BASED ON A PASSION for mid-century design, skateboard culture and California lifestyle.

From their website, “SSH specializes in recreating popular furniture through the vision of a skateboarder. The movement of a skateboarder constantly changes — it recreates itself by transcending boundaries and inventing ways to conquer obstacles. It’s constantly about anticipation and adaptation to one’s environment. The same is true for living design. The combination of the two produces a mixture of contemporary lifestyle, art and action sports culture, which is all found in this unique collection.”

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