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Visual Arts

26 Jul 2016
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The area surrounding the city of Coachella is dominated by farms, ranches, orchards and the laborers who work on them. As I drove to meet Armando Lerma at his Date Farmers art studio, I passed fields where migrant farmworkers were doing their jobs under the brutal summer sun. This is one of the places where Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers union fought for the labor rights of these migrant farmers. Today, Coachella is becoming known for more than agriculture; it’s also getting more and more attention for its rising arts scene—and much of that attention is directly due to Armando Lerma and the Date Farmers studio. When I arrived at the studio, which Lerma started with Carlos Ramirez (who was not present; he apparently avoids interviews), Lerma greeted me. Lerma’s two large dogs jumped around in excitement as he opened the door to show me the garden area…
20 Jul 2016
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Hard rain has driven the small crew down from their camp at an alpine lake to a roadside national forest picnic area. The spot’s pleasant, even under a late-May storm: Oregon’s Clackamas and Collawash rivers meet here, and conifers and the fluorescent whorls of horsetails overhang the clear green water. Amy Harwood—all in black with an Army-drab beanie and a long braid over one shoulder—crouches by a metal fire pit, knifing kindling from a wedge of wood. Four others, all artists, stand around her. Despite sweaters and jackets, everyone looks chilled. “Are there rippling muscles in there yet?” asks Harwood’s partner, Ryan Pierce, pointing at my notebook. The flames falter in the wet ash. Harwood blows them back to life as Pierce narrates my hypothetical story: “‘It seemed like fire sprouted from their fingers … or from their rippling muscles,’” he says gravely. “‘Julie made a bird call and we…
10 Jun 2016
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Highbrows beware: Another nail is being hammered into the coffin that contains what was once deemed “fine art.” The hammer in question: a pneumatic hammer wielded by Pascal Pierme, a mixed-media artist whose show at Hohmann Gallery on El Paseo in Palm Desert has been extended until June 20. The exhibit includes some well-executed freestanding wood sculptures. However, these works remain secondary to the visual and creative vision offered by the artist’s wall sculptures. While each piece is unique, each sculpture shares at least one or two stylistic elements (like texture or finish), an emotional draw or a color palette with at least one other piece on display. Like collage, Pierme’s wall sculptures are best viewed in two different ways: From a distance, the viewer can take in the entire composition; close up, the viewer can better understand the artist’s creative process, including his choice of materials, his technical expertise…
24 Apr 2016
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Every year at Coachella, the art installations cause a variety of reactions. “Wow.” “Interesting.” “WTF?” “Tower of Twelve Stories” by Jimenez Lai of Taiwan/Canada really lights up the Coachella night sky this year. It sort of resembles a piece of modern furniture, with compartments put together to form one structure. It may be a statement as to how we’ll be living in tiny spaces in very strange buildings in the future. One installation that is on the “WTF” part of the scale is “The Armpit.” It led to the first time I’ve ever been able to say, “Let’s get in line to see ‘The Armpit!’” It’s meant to be interactive. The minute you walk up the ramp and inside the armpit (that just sounds funny, doesn’t it) … it, thankfully, is not very armpit-like. The first room of the work, designed by Katrina Neiburga and Andris Eglitis of Latvia, features…
17 Apr 2016
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“Fundamentally antagonistic” is an appropriate phrase to use when describing the works of John Sloan and Alexander Calder, two celebrated artists who set benchmarks during the first 75 years of the last century. Over the first half of the century, Sloan incorporated New York City’s energy with social commentary through his oils, drawings and prints. As a Sloan protégé, Calder learned to create highly detailed, technically exacting and subtly nuanced oils, prints and works on paper. Sloan’s influence was reflected in Calder’s early works. However, Calder did not imitate his teacher. Shortly after graduating from art school, Calder—who had previously earned a mechanical-engineering degree—reinvented himself, in the process redefining sculpture. Sometime in the early 1930s, a Calder piece at a gallery exhibition announced his unique and highly personal aesthetic: One avant garde artist called it “mobile.” About five years later, the artist re-branded himself yet again, and further broadened the…
28 Mar 2016
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I’ve spent more than 45 years learning about art and artists—and I remain in awe of Marc Chagall. The unlikely artist was one of nine children born into an extremely poor, highly religious Jewish family. Chagall grew up in a shtetl (a small, ghetto-like village) in Vitebsk, Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire. He married his muse Bella Rosenfeld in 1909; he moved to Paris in 1910. Chagall’s personal style and creativity flourished after moving to a Parisian art colony, where he received exposure to the early 20th century avant garde creative-art movements. This highly prolific artist’s successes extend well beyond traditional media, like painting, drawing and printmaking: He also championed frequently overlooked art forms, including stained glass, fiber arts and mosaics. Throughout his life, Chagall created art that frequently contained a narrative reflecting his youth in Vitebsk. While some might think—incorrectly—that much of his art was too narrowly…

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