Historical Item

The Handcrafted Paper Stencils of a Kimono Designer Who Turned to Prints

The Handcrafted Paper Stencils of a Kimono Designer Who Turned to Prints
by Claire Voon on February 24, 2016 for Hyperallergic

For decades, the late Japanese artist Yoshitoshi Mori worked as an established kimono designer, using a stencil-based technique to dye his textiles. When he shifted his focus entirely to printmaking in 1960 after experimenting with the medium, he continued working with this layered design method. His resulting wealth of kappazuri — works produced with carefully hand-cut paper stencils — drew from the mingei folk art movement of the ’20s and ’30s that cherished handicraft. Looking further back into Japanese visual traditions, they also focus on subjects of pleasure widely depicted in the ukiyo-e of the Edo period, showing sensual courtesans, kabuki actors, and scenes from Japanese myth. Multilayered and composed of intricate shapes, Mori’s prints are best appreciated up close, an opportunity given by a current exhibition at Ronin Gallery that also features a handful of his sketchbook illustrations and paintings.

While stencil-based printmaking may conjure images with rigid forms, Mori’s prints are incredibly dynamic, composed of thick but fluid lines that constantly move the eye. One rendering of Taira no Tomomori, a warrior figure and popular character included in kabuki plays, juxtaposes swirling patterns on the man’s garments with dramatic hair that shoots from his head like a fountain. In another print, the voluptuous curves of a woman taking an afternoon nap seem to make her teeter on her back. Although his works do not necessarily involve movement, with many of them being portraits, his playing of negative and positive space introduces a delightful animation.

A Journey to the Oldest Cave Paintings in the World

A Journey to the Oldest Cave Paintings in the World
The discovery in a remote part of Indonesia has scholars rethinking the origins of art—and of humanity
By Jo Marchant
The Smithsonian Magazine, January 2016

I struggle to keep my footing on a narrow ridge of earth snaking between flooded fields of rice. The stalks, almost ready to harvest, ripple in the breeze, giving the valley the appearance of a shimmering green sea. In the distance, steep limestone hills rise from the ground, perhaps 400 feet tall, the remains of an ancient coral reef. Rivers have eroded the landscape over millions of years, leaving behind a flat plain interrupted by these bizarre towers, called karsts, which are full of holes, channels and interconnecting caves carved by water seeping through the rock.

We’re on the island of Sulawesi, in Indonesia, an hour’s drive north of the bustling port of Makassar. We approach the nearest karst undeterred by a group of large black macaques that screech at us from trees high on the cliff and climb a bamboo ladder through ferns to a cave called Leang Timpuseng. Inside, the usual sounds of everyday life here—cows, roosters, passing motorbikes—are barely audible through the insistent chirping of insects and birds. The cave is cramped and awkward, and rocks crowd into the space, giving the feeling that it might close up at any moment. But its modest appearance can’t diminish my excitement: I know this place is host to something magical, something I’ve traveled nearly 8,000 miles to see.

Scattered on the walls are stencils, human hands outlined against a background of red paint. Though faded, they are stark and evocative, a thrilling message from the distant past. My companion, Maxime Aubert, directs me to a narrow semicircular alcove, like the apse of a cathedral, and I crane my neck to a spot near the ceiling a few feet above my head. Just visible on darkened grayish rock is a seemingly abstract pattern of red lines.

VOX Tracks Kilroy Across WWII War Zones (Video)

We know about the epic drama of World War II, but what about the jokes? The above video tells the story (as best as we can). The iconic piece of graffiti that was known, in America, as "Kilroy Was Here" traveled the world in a fashion remarkably similar to a modern meme.

Theorem Art in Williamsburg, VA

Colonial Williamsburg presents theorem art at Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum
By HOLLY PRESTIDGE Richmond Times-Dispatch | Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2015 10:30 pm

“Theorem work,” a popular method of watercolor stencil painting on fabric, wood and paper, was used to decorate everyday objects and create decorative pictures in the 19th century.


An exhibit highlighting the artwork, which was popular as a skill for women, is on display in Colonial Williamsburg.


“Folk art enthusiasts have long associated the art of stencil with 19th-century collections, and we’re excited to share this important and vibrant form of American art with the public,” Laura Pass Barry, Colonial Williamsburg’s Juli Grainger curator of paintings, drawings and sculpture and manager for curatorial outreach, said in a release. “This exhibit will not only depict a variety of theorem compositions and subjects, but it will also show the period process which artists, schoolgirls, and everyday men and women followed to create these colorful creations making them today one of the country’s most recognized and celebrated folk art traditions.”

Patti Smith Stencils a Wall (1972, NYC)

"We decided to leave [our Twenty-third street loft] on October 20, 1972.... Robert [Mapplethorpe] and I stood together alone in my section of the loft. I had left some things behind - the lamb pull toy, an old white jacket made of parachute silk, PATTI SMITH 1946 - stenciled on the back wall- in homage to the room like one leaves a portion of wine to the gods." - Just Kids by Patti Smith (p. 208)

Art and Gentrification: Everything Must Go....

[From Stencil Archive: At what point is public art part of the problem of gentrification? When is corporate manipulation and intrusion too much for a community to bear? Can public art be created without thinking about the environment, the wall it is painted on, and the community in mind? What are the limits of making money for one's art as opposed to the created pieces being part of the problem of massive evictions and migrations of lower-income and working class populations? These questions have been stewing for months now, and there is surprisingly little writing on these issues. Megan Wilson, co-curator of the Clarion Alley Mural Project, pushes back and contemplates these sometimes blurry lines between selling out and paying  the rent. Below is an essay she wrote that touches on some of the above questions. For a much better version, with photographs and links, please go to stretcher and read the original. Thanks, Megan, for allowing a repost of this important angle on some of the behind-the-scenes manipulations that are going on in the condo-boomtown that is San Francisco.]

The Gentrification of our Livelihoods: Everything Must Go…
by Megan Wilson

Preface: When I began researching and writing The Gentrification of our Livelihoods in early March 2014 one of my primary interests was the impact that the collaboration between Intersection for the Arts and developer Forest City’s creative placemaking 5M Project is having on the existing communities that have invested in and called the South of Market home prior to the tech booms. Having worked with many community-based organizations within the SoMa community for the past 18 years, I’ve had deep concerns about the development’s impact for the neighborhood and its impact on the future of Intersection.

However, I would not have predicted the announcement that Intersection made on May 22nd to cut its arts, education, and community engagement programs and lay off its program staff would come as soon as it did. What began as a reflection on the shortcomings of creative placemaking as a tool for economic development and its implications on gentrification and community displacement has become a cautionary tale for arts and community organizations to question and better understand the potential outcomes of working with partners whose interests are rooted in financial profit.

Shepard Fairey's Arrest Begs Question: Art or Vandalism?

How Shepard Fairey's arrest provides a new look at an old question: Is it art or is it vandalism?

By DEBORAH VANKIN AND DAVID NG (LA Times)

Shepard Fairey has never been one to play by the rules — and that's par for the course for someone in a street art community that exists on the cultural margins.

Or does it?

The L.A.-based street artist and graphic designer, best known for his 2008 "Hope" poster timed with Barack Obama's presidential campaign as well as the "Obey" image seen on posters and T-shirts worldwide, was arrested last week while passing through customs at Los Angeles International Airport. Authorities there noticed that Detroit police had issued a warrant last month related to two counts of malicious destruction of property.

Fairey, 45, had been accused of putting up posters, without permission, on private and government property in Detroit. But once he was in custody in L.A., Detroit police backed off: They declined to extradite the artist.

"In terms of graffiti, it's not as high as a murder or rape or something," Detroit police Officer Dan Donakowski said Monday, a day before Fairey surrendered to Detroit police and was quickly arraigned and released.

Why Stencil Typography Is Here To Stay

Why Stencil Typography Is Here To Stay

(from fastcodedesign.com; photo by Louise Fili)

DESIGNERS LOUISE FILI AND STEVEN HELLER COMPILE 60 YEARS OF STENCIL TYPE FROM 8 COUNTRIES AND REVEAL WHY THE PRIMITIVE STYLE STILL REIGNS.

The stencil is one of the world’s most primitive printing techniques. It dates back to prehistory, with stencils found in caves, in the art of ancient China and Japan, and in the crafts of indigenous people worldwide. Stencil typefaces are still popular today, whether in the form of new, witty takes on the genre, like Der Weiner Stentzel’s sausage shapes for letterforms, or vintage typefaces redrawn as stencils, like Bodoni or Century.

Stencil Type, a new book by design gurus Steven Heller and Louise Fili, compiles 60 years of this universal typographic style with photos from around the world. It reveals why the stencil has been and remains such a valuable tool for designers and typographers even in the age of digital printing.

Compared to other forms of typesetting, stenciling has always been a low-cost, easy-to-use medium for bold, clearly legible mass communication. This made it ubiquitous in the military and transportation industry (think of the stenciled labels on shipping containers and burlap bags); in populist and rebellious movements (in occupied France, the stenciled letter "V" for victoire became a powerful symbol of resistance; much of the Occupy movement’s poster art is stenciled); and in magazine and poster design, especially in the Bauhaus, Futurist, Constructivist, and Art Deco movements.

Taking a Tour of El Castillo Cave, Seeing Ancient Hand Stencils

19 November 2014
A journey deep inside Spain’s temple of cave art
In Spain Arts & Architecture By Rachel Corbett, for the BBC

I gasped at my first glimpse of a cave painting: a crude red outline of a deer with one wild circle for an eye. Its iron pigments blazed under the lamplight. The illusion of a breastbone emerged, ingeniously, out of a hump in the limestone wall. After a while, a cave becomes a long black tunnel of sensory deprivation; the sight of this tender image jolted my breath back to life.

“Can you tell you’re in a sacred place?” asked Marcos Garcia Diez, the archaeologist who had agreed to show me some of the most breathtaking rock art ever created. “This cave is like a church and that’s why ancient people returned, returned, returned here for thousands of years.”

Jutting from the base of a mountain about 85km west of Bilbao, El Castillo is one of the world’s most celebrated rock art temples. When Homo sapiens first began their northward migration from Africa to Europe around 40,000 years ago, some joined the Neanderthals here in Cantabria, a region that is home to at least 40 painted caves, including El Castillo. So magnificent are the province’s primordial masterpieces that when Picasso visited, he reportedly declared, “We have learned nothing in 12,000 years.”

40,000 Year Old Hand Stencils in Indonesia

Cave Paintings in Indonesia Redraw Picture of Earliest Art
The dating discovery recasts ancient cave art as a continent-spanning human practice.

Dan Vergano
National Geographic
PUBLISHED OCTOBER 8, 2014

A hand painted in an Indonesian cave dates to at least 39,900 years ago, making it among the oldest such images in the world, archaeologists reported Wednesday in a study that rewrites the history of art.

The discovery on the island of Sulawesi vastly expands the geography of the first cave artists, who were long thought to have appeared in prehistoric Europe around that time. Reported in the journal Nature, the cave art includes stencils of hands and a painting of a babirusa, or "pig-deer," which may be the world's oldest figurative art.

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