Robert Cenedella: The provocative anti-establishment outsider behind Art Bastard

Cenedella with his famous Le Cirque — The First Generation painting in 1998

Cenedella with his famous Le Cirque — The First Generation, in 1998

Iconoclastic New York painter Robert Cenedella is one of the most distinctive and provocative American artists of the last half century.

But when it comes to the art establishment, Cenedella receives the Rodney Dangerfield treatment – he gets no respect. "Not one American museum has a painting of mine," he observes.

While his paintings have been ostracized from museums of contemporary art, Cenedella himself has been far from invisible.

But his fame largely rests on his well-publicized role as an agent provocateur who has deftly mocked the art world for its fixation on abstract and conceptual art while disdaining and excluding figurative and politically edgy artists like himself. "I call myself the most widely written-about unknow n artist in America," he says.

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Cenedella's satirical take on the plight of artists, Gallery Opening, painted in 1969

That "unknown artist" status may be about to change with the release of Art Bastard, an enthralling and intimate new documentary that traces Cenedella's unusual personal story and introduces viewers to his compelling canvases.

Best of all the crisply edited film, directed by Victor Kaminsky, frequently fixes in on his crowded and colorful paintings, catching in detail the humor and scabrous satire he deploys to both celebrate and politically skewer urban society and culture.

We recently caught up with Cenedella, who was in Los Angeles for the Southern California debut of Art Bastard at the Laemmle Theater in Santa Monica along with an exhibit of some of his paintings at the adjacent art gallery.

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The artist discusses his work, including his parody of Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup tin

The film, which launched in New York in early June, has so far received rave reviews, possibly propelling it into contention for next year's best documentary Oscar. It is set to soon become available on Video on Demand.

"The rule has been that only abstract painters and conceptual artists, no matter how content-free and banal, legitimately belong in museums of contemporary art," Cenedella asserts. "It's not what they show that bothers me, it's what they don't show. For some reason I'm not considered a contemporary artist."

Will the release of Art Bastard help gain Cenedella the recognition he has long deserved? "I have to believe that after 50 years my time has come, based on all the positive reactions the film has gotten," he declares. "Pandora's box has been opened by this film, so the art world will have to justify their neglect of my work."

Cenedella at his Laight Street Studio in Manhattan in 1988

Cenedella at his Laight Street Studio in Manhattan back in 1988

Cenedella's own biography is a compelling part of the documentary. His father was the head of the New York Radio Writer's Guild, when he was blacklisted in the McCarthy era and his career was crushed. The family went from a comfortable existence to near penury.

A young Cenedella suffered another blow when he learned that this was not his real father, hence one part of the double meaning of the Art Bastard title, the other being his illegitimacy in the eyes of the art world and his thorn-in-the-side response.

A maverick from a young age, Cenedella got thrown out of high school for writing a paper that made fun of the "duck and cover" drills that were supposed to protect students from the sudden blast of an atomic bomb.

The spawn of "I Like Elvis" buttons that Presley fans bought in the 1950s gave him the idea of selling "I Love Ludwig" buttons. He made enough to pay the entry tuition to the Art Students League of New York.

There he was taught by George Grosz, not knowing at first the reputation of the German artist whose coruscating anti-Nazi art caused him to flee his homeland. Grosz became his mentor, passing on to Cenedella both his skilled classical technique and his style of sharp social critique.

cenedella and grosz

Cenedella with satirical painter George Grosz, who became his mentor

Cenedella first captured widespread attention in 1965 with his Yes Art show. It was aimed at puncturing the crass pretensions of the art world with its then-fixation on trendy pop art.

Styling himself as the anti-Andy Warhol, he parodied the artist's signature painting of a Campbell's tomato soup can by doing one of a Heinz 57 soup can instead. He copied Robert Indiana's Love painting, but changed the letters from L-O-V-E to S-H-I-T. He also threw cooked spaghetti against a frame and presented a live model as a work of art.

The show became a press sensation. "More was written about me than Warhol that year," Cenedella recalls. "Everything I did as a joke was done later and taken seriously, raising the question of what is and isn't the standard for calling something a work of art, which was really the whole point of the show."

Instead of glorying in the ironic success of the Yes show and being co-opted, Cenedella threw up his arms in disgust. He exited the cynical art world for the equally cynical Mad Men world of advertising. After a dozen years he returned to painting.

In 1988 he again stirred controversy when he was asked to assemble a one-man show for the New York headquarters of ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi.

One of the paintings, The Presence of Man, s howed Santa Claus on a cross replacing Christ. Piles of wrapped presents (pun intended) were piled below, a commentary on the crass commercialization of Christmas. That proved a step too far for the ad agency which cancelled the entire exhibition.

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The Presence of Man (1988), which sparked controversy with its crucified Santa Claus

It wasn't until 1997 that the Santa painting reappeared, prominently hung in a front window of The Art Students League for the holiday season. Worldwide coverage was sparked, and as well as condemnation. "To use a current expression, it went viral overnight," the painter says slyly.

Not all of Cendella's work is meant to stir controversy – som e of it elicits genial bemusement. Le Cirque — The First Generation, is one of the great group portraits in recent memory.

The 8×10 foot mural includes caricatures of 181 mostly A-list celebrities who frequented New York's ultimate see-and-be-seen restaurant in its heyday. While enjoying some 50 meals at the four-star restaurant, Cenedella watched and sketched the notables who would show up.

Le Cirque – The First Generation

The famous faces of Cenedella's Le Cirque – The First Generation, from 1998

In the painting, which still hangs at Le Cirque's successor location, Cenedella drolly decided where to place the diners, from Henry Kissinger to Frank Zappa. Gossip columnist Liz Smith is at a front table next to Richard Nixon, and Woody Allen — not a favorite of the artist — gets buried way in the back.

But most of Cenedella's best paintings pack a powerful political punch. The Battlefield of Energy is a vast polluted landscape with an array of corporate despoilers in the foreground. His frenzied canvas of the U.S. Senate is rife with signs of selling out.

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Cenedella's The Senate (with Olbermann), which was completed in 2012

Cenedella, now 76, continues to teach at the Art Students League and to paint. "I'm working now on what I call The End of the World, about the perturbing politics surrounding the current election campaign," he notes. "Donald Trump is prominently featured."


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What is a Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, anyway? The question George Lucas leaves behind

One way or another, George Lucas is going to get his museum.

It won't be in those giant daubs of Marshmallow Fluff he wanted to occupy in Chicago, it turns out. Not now, not after Friends of the Parks elected not to be friends of the project, and a federal judge agreed that they might have a point about not putting the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art on the city's lakefront.

Certainly not after Lucas last Friday chose to quit on the possibility of winning his argument in court and cut the cord tying the project to Chicago, the hometown of his wife, Mellody Hobson.

Hobson is "just heartbroken by this," her boss, Ariel Investments CEO John W. Rogers Jr. told the Tribune this week. Since their statement of withdrawal, she and the "Star Wars" creator have been silent on the matter, allowing various associates to publicly lament the loss of job opportunities and excitement for the children.

But Lucas will get a museum. And whether it goes up in San Francisco or Los Angeles or, I don't know, Cabo San Lucas, people seem to still be puzzled by one throbbing question: What is a museum of narrative art?

TRIBUNE COVERAGE: GEORGE LUCAS MUSEUM

"The Lucas Museum will be a barrier free museum where artificial divisions between 'high' art and 'popular' art are absent, allowing you to explore a wide array of compelling visual storytelling," www.lucasmuseum.org proclaims. It will be pitched at "visitors who might be less inclined to visit a traditional fine art museum."

Readers understand, I think, that Lucas has in mind more than just a "Star Wars" museum, although that movie franchise is essentially the source of the funds for the museum and for the filmmaker's art collection that will occupy it.

"We'll have 'Indiana Jones,' we'll have 'Lord of the Rings.' We're going to have a lot of movies, not just my movies," Lucas said in October 2014, in a Chicago Ideas Week interview that was, as best as I can tell, his only public appearance here pushing the project.

The museum will also feature Norman Rockwell paintings from Lucas's collection, a tribute to an artist firmly in the tradition of narrative art and one Lucas sees as underappreciated.

"The Metropolitan Museum (of Art) in New York has some Rockwells; they just don't ever display them," Lucas said on the stage at the annual festival, where he was interviewed by friend and TV host Charlie Rose. "There's a lot of museums that have this kind of artwork that they just don't display because they don't think it's worthy or whatever. But hopefully with this, it'll draw attention to it."

The attention in the year-and-a-half since then, however, has not yet turned to the art. At the Tribune I cover museums, at least the kind that have operating hours and needlessly complex ticket plans and gaggles of schoolkids on typical weekday mornings.

The Lucas Museum saga, I mostly let play out where it belonged, in coverage of the issues over its siting, led by architecture critic Blair Kamin. In the two years from the breathless announcement that the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art would occupy a parking lot south of Soldier Field to last Friday's withdrawal statement, it never really became a museum story.

It was a land-use story, a public-policy story, from some perspectives an arrogance-of-the-powerful story. In retrospect, it would have served us all well to keep top-of-mind that Lucas brought the proposed institution here only after his native San Francisco would not grant him the waterfront parkland site he wanted there.

But there were two points in late 2014 when I did try to let people know just what would go inside the Lucas's buildings, an architectural design I said brought to mind "the science-fair volcano of an obsessive "Star Wars" fan." One was in coverage of the Lucas talk. One was when the museum quietly updated its website to offer a more detailed mission statement than the largely placeholder material that had been there before.

"When you visit the Lucas Museum you will explore how storytelling functions within the visual arts," the website explains. "The Museum will allow you to explore narrative art from two distinct perspectives: from the maker's perspective, as we explore how storytelling artists create impact in visual form; and from the viewer's perspective, understanding and celebrating the successes of these narrative art works."

The three pieces of art featured on that page are the 1920 Joseph Christian Leyendecker painting "Football Players and Fans" (in a style that looks Rockwell-esque), a 6th Century BCE Greek amphora decorated with a battle scene, and a production still depicting biolumes from the 2009 film "Avatar."

"The great thing about narrative art, it's designed for the people," said Lucas. "It was always designed for the people. It's not an elitist art at all."

And it is, apparently, pretty inclusive in how it can be defined.

The site's narrative art explanation includes quotations from French literary theorist Roland Barthes and from Rockwell, opining that "if you can tell a story in your picture, and if a reasonable number of people like your work, it is art."

Featured narrative art categories are illustration, children's art, photography, pin-up art, and comic art, as well as fine art by painters including Bellows, Benton, Renoir and Remington.

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While much modern art rejected narrative, the piece concludes, "Narrative Art's popularity with the general public never wavered, pointing to its ability to cross cultural and social boundaries in its plainspoken, genuine style."

But as much as the Lucas Museum wants to claim a place at the table for more everyday artworks, it also wants to be, it sounds like, a kind of top-line movie palace, "a cinematheque," Lucas called it during the Ideas Week appearance.

In the film realm, it plans to offer "a comprehensive collection of regional, national and international cinema, experimental and independent film, video, and digital media," says the website.

Also: "The Lucas Museum will regularly screen legendary archival films and offer conversations with filmmakers, film scholars and critics. In addition, the Museum will host workshops for schools, colleges and after-school programs, as well as lectures on the history of cinema, with an emphasis on regional cinema."

So to sum it up, this "Museum of Narrative Art" will be, apparently, a populist art museum with a strong concentration in showing movies.

That is different, of course, than a good cinema with some art on its lobby walls. But whether it is different enough to merit prime waterfront real estate is a question that some other city must now decide.

sajohnson@tribpub.com
Twitter: @StevenKJohnson

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Auctioneer at Sotheby’s Confident in London as Art Hub

Photo
The auctioneer Helena Newman, right, at Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art sale in London on June 21. An Amedeo Modigliani portrait, left, sold for $56.7 million that night. Credit Sotheby's

Early this week, when the art world braced for the potential fallout from "Brexit," at least one auctioneer was resolute.

Helena Newman, the worldwide co-head of Impressionist and Modern Art for Sotheby's, had presided over the first sale of the spring season in London last week, bringing $63.7 million for Picasso's "Femme Assise" (1909), the most expensive Cubist painting ever sold at auction.

Sotheby's grossed 103.3 million pounds from the sale, or about $151 million, with just three of 27 lots failing to sell. The previous year's sale was significantly larger with 50 lots and brought £178.6 million, or about $282 million. Ms. Newman also sold a 1919 portrait by Amedeo Mod igliani, "Jeanne Hébuterne (au Foulard)," for $56.7 million that night.

Those are the two highest prices on the London market in the last five years (the Modigliani, unlike the Picasso, was guaranteed to sell because of a third-party "irrevocable bid").

The sale made Ms. Newman, 49, the first woman to preside over a major evening sale in London since the 1990s.

As a result, sitting over tea on a rainy afternoon in Mayfair, Ms. Newman — who has been with Sotheby's for 28 years — sounded undaunted by the political turmoil and Europe's depressed currency, which has convulsed London.

"Whatever is going on, if you have something really great or really rare, that will ride out any concerns," she said. "There continue to be global collectors who are looking for museum-quality work." (Indeed, she had bidders from 29 countries in her sale.)

While inventory has considerably contracted — the Impressionist & Modern Art sale was almost half the size of last year's — Ms. Newman said the market continued to show "healthy depth."

"Though we didn't have a lot," she said, "what we did have performed well."

This resilience, Ms. Newman said, is largely because of the influx of new buyers from all over the world. She also noted that while many pundits have predicted a shift to private sales, the Picasso and Modigliani came to auction "in this year and this market."

Ms. Newman has handled day auctions before, but "the evening sale is a different level of scrutiny and theater," she said. "It's a barometer of the strength of the art market. We treat those as our flagship auctions, in terms of reflecting our brand."

When the auctioneer Henry Wyndham lef t Sotheby's in February, Ms. Newman rose to the opportunity, knowing there would be a lot riding on her performance.

"This will send a very clear message to the market that women auctioneers should be up there with men auctioneers — this is a new era," she said. "Had the sale not been successful, people might have had a different view."

Being on the rostrum is an art form in itself — placing major lots in key strategic positions ("not too early, not too late and not too close together," Ms. Newman said); knowing how to control the pace, energy and mood in the salesroom.

Ms. Newman's style stems from her training as a serious violinist (she also studied French and German literature at Oxford — languages that come in handy with clients).

"Some approach it like an athlete, some like an actor," she said. "I approach it as a musician, with crescendos and diminuendos. What you absolutely have to avoid is monotony and boredom."

"With the Picasso, I slowed down considerably," she added, "because it's very high numbers and you need to give people time."

She said, "There's no reason why London shouldn't continue to be — alongside New York — the great hub of the global art market."

Wade Guyton Exhibition

Having known Wade Guyton for some time — and even rafted with him — Heidi Zuckerman, the director of the Aspen Art Museum, gave the artist an open invitation to mount an exhibition.

About a year ago, Mr. Guyton asked to do a solo show alongside the work of Peter Fischli and David Weiss, who were recently featured at the Guggenheim. (Mr. Weiss died in 2012.)

In their exhibition, scheduled for next June, the artists will collaborate on walls comprising their sculptures that will camouflage distinctive parts of the Shigeru Ban-designed building — "almost like erasing thes e known elements," Ms. Zuckerman said.

The show will take up all the galleries, as well as previously unused spaces at the museum, like the roof deck sculpture garden and the front commons.

"There's a sense of humor, there's a sense of focusing on the process," Ms. Zuckerman said. "The idea is that each of the artists have the opportunity to have work on their own and also to collaborate with each other."

Emerging Artist Award

"Ellsworth was very interested in giving things to underrecognized artists," said the artist Glenn Ligon, speaking of Ellsworth Kelly.

Mr. Ligon serves on the board of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, which has received a $1 million gift from the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation to endow a new annual award.

The gift is the largest single cash contribution ever received by the Contemporary Arts foundation, which was established by Jasper Johns and John Cage in 1963.

The donation includes a $40,000 grant to support a solo exhibition by an emerging, midcareer or little-known contemporary visual artist at a regional art museum, or university or college art gallery in the United States.

The first Ellsworth Kelly Award is going to the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania for a solo exhibition of film, video and sculpture by the Chicago-based filmmaker and artist Cauleen Smith in the fall of 2018, curated by Anthony Elms.

"Cauleen is at this funny moment where she's done a huge amount of work in Chicago," Mr. Ligon said, "but she's not doing the kind of show that lends itself to big gallery support."

A Nine-Hour Film

Adrian Cheng, the Hong Kong business leader who founded the K11 Art Foundation, which supports Chinese contemporary art, has established a three-month residency at the New Museum that will culminate in an exhibition for the artist Cheng Ran; he will start Aug. 1, and the exhibition opens Oct. 19.

Mr. Cheng, who was born in 1981 in Inner Mongolia, proposed as his project a nine-hour film about three people who have disappeared. "In a way, it doesn't matter whether anybody can see it all," said Massimiliano Gioni, the museum's artistic directo r. "The time that the viewer puts into seeing it — that is, to me, a form of culture."

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Opening up a world of art for the blind with 3-D technology

Even with his can-do attitude, the 13-year-old recalls feeling excluded when he visited a museum exhibition with his family in Victoria, British Columbia. It offered no Braille for the blind to use in its museum experience, so his mother read information from the placards to him. Beyond that and a few audio buttons, the rest of the exhibit involved paintings and items encased in glass, with no way for him to learn more about them.

"It made me feel like an outsider," he said.

But two years ago, Luc was able to "see" art again in a unique way at a convention for the blind. He encountered 3D Photoworks, a company that produces tactile fine art printing for museums and science centers. It had a few samples on hand for people to experience, "seeing" through touching famous works of art such as the "Mona Lisa" that have been converted into touchable 3D-printed versions.

The art is also embedded with sensors throughout, and when they are activated, audio describes what is being touched on the image.

"I had never felt anything like this before," said Luc, whose family asked that their last name not be used.

John Olson, the co-founder of 3D Photoworks, was at the convention to introduce his idea to the blind community, receive feedback and ask them to join focus groups. Wanting input from all ages, Olson asked Luc to be one of his technical advisers.

As a young person, Luc was living in a highly visual world without sight. Olson wanted to know what Luc was looking for when it comes to inclusive museum exhibits.

"Luc is a dynamic kid who doesn't let blindness stand in his way," Olson said.

Olson, a photographer of 40 years who became known for his work during the Vietnam War in Life magazine, saw an opportunity in 2008 to develop the technology to give the blind access to art and photography in a way they had never experienced before. The startup spent seven years working on the technology and process behind scanning 2-D images and using them to carve out 3-D art and overlay the print on top of a substrate.

It has already provided the "Sight Unseen" experience at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, as well as showcasing what it can offer to the more than 35,000 museums in the U.S. at the American Alliance of Museums Expo in Washington. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 285 million people visually impaired worldwide, and Olson wants to help as many of them as he can reach through museums and other cultural institutions.

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"[Our process] captures information down to the brushstroke," he said. "When a blind person experiences a Van Gogh or the 'Mona Lisa,' they in fact can capture more information than many people who are sighted that have to view art at a distance."

For the sighted going to visit the original "Mona Lisa" in the Louvre today, visitors are 40 to 50 feet away behind two barriers, and the art is protected by layers of bulletproof glass. The 3-D process allows everyone to experience this art differently, whether they are sighted or not, Olson said.

"Before, I had only encountered audio descriptions of art in museums," Luc said. "But that's not your interpretation; that is how someone else sees it. With this, you can make your own decisions about art and experience it for real. You can feel the details that would be left out in an audio description."


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Awesome Art We've Found Around The Net: Steven Spielberg Special

Some cliche somewhere said that 'a picture is worth a thousand words.' This has proven to be the case for me and especially when it comes to fan art. I have always sought out great fan art and have wanted to share it with as many people as possible. "Awesome Artwork We've Found Around The Net" is the outlet for that passion. In this column I will showcase the kick-ass artwork of some great artists, with the hopes that these artists get the attention they deserve. That's the aim, if you have any questions or comments, or even suggestions of art or other great artists, feel free to contact me any time at theodorebond@joblo.com.

The Adventures of Tintin by Abby McKenzie The BFG by Lisa Geißner
Catch Me If You Can by volkanakyalcin
Close Encounters of the Third Kind by Tchav Duel by Uri Adriano da Silva E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial by Calamus Gladio Fortior Hook by Marcos Lopez Indiana Jones by Christian Nauck
Jaws by Andy Fairhurst Jurassic Park by Marcos Weiss Minority Report by Blake Loosli Saving Private Ryan by Nasser Schindler's List by Sahin Düzgün
Steven Spielberg by Mateus Cosme P. de Melo The Sugarland Express by Peter Pulp

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Big Brands Are Setting Up Shop in Beijing's Art District

"This is the most creative place I've ever worked," says Saad Metz, Audi AG's head of research and development in Beijing, looking out of his ceiling-to-floor window at a landscape of metal pipes and old factories. "Here we get inspired by artists every day."

The German automaker set up its China design center in Beijing's 798 art district, a sprawl of old military electronics facilities taken over in the early 2000s by the capital's booming contemporary art scene and now being invaded by design companies and entrepreneurs.

In the narrow lanes of Bauhaus-style buildings dotted with sculptures of caged dinosaurs, a screaming red man, or a pack of wolves, young designers and engineers are challenging the idea that China can only copy.

"'Made in China' was our parents' generation," says Tara Wang, 34, a curator at Tokyo Gallery + Beijing Tokyo Art Projects, one of the first galleries to open in 798 back in 2002 that still has Mao-era propaganda slogans on its ceiling. "Our generation is starting to create."

While President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang bet such innovation will deliver new growth drivers, the question remains whether state-sponsored creativity is an oxymoron in a country that tightly controls information and blocks Western internet services like Google and Twitter. Even with its manufacturing prowess, only two Chinese names were among the world's 100 most valuable brands in 2015, according to Interbrand—telecoms equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co. and Lenovo Group Ltd.

Zone 798 is becoming part of the front line in the endeavor to change all that. Located in a former military-industrial area built in the 1950s in cooperation with former East Germany, Metz says it's the perfect place for Audi's designers and engineers—he calls them "trend scouts"—to keep abreast of China's emergence as an innovative force.

A prototype of an Audi model created by a student of China Academy of Fine Arts on display.

Photographer: Gilles Sabrié/Bloomberg

Research and Development

At Audi's 7,600-square meter research and development office, staff are influencing Audi production worldwide, from the touchpads for navigation systems to the color of its cars.

And trying to figure out how to beat the Beijing traffic.

"There was one case where I was stuck in traffic not far from the office and we hardly moved for 20 to 30 minutes," said Ning Meng, 31, a designer from Shenyang in northeastern China. "There was a taxi in front of me and at one point he turned off his engine and started cleaning his car."

Her solution: a souped-up electric skateboard that's linked to an app. The software warns her of impending gridlock and guides her to the nearest car park, where she can switch to the longboard, stowed in the car's bumper.

Audi's offices also produced a touchpad for inputting Chinese and other languages into a navigation system that's now being used internationally.

Ning Meng and the electric skate board, which can be stowed away in the car's bumper.

Photographer : Gilles Sabrié/Bloomberg

Meanwhile, color and trim designer Zheng Yi, 27, has been working on Hainan Blue, Audi's first global auto tint to be developed in China.

"We needed a color that was young and energetic," said the Tsinghua University graduate in transportation industrial design. "We look at fashion shows, at furniture, at industrial products and get inspiration from all the design-related trends."

Zheng's passion for paint fits well with 798, a colony of artists, many evicted from elsewhere in the capital, that became the epicenter of one of the biggest contemporary art booms in history.

Organic Growth

The zone began to emerge back in 2002, when artists Huang Rui, photographer Xu Yong and Robert Bernell, a Texan arts book publisher, moved into the area, officially called Dashanzi. More painters and sculptors followed, then came the galleries, cafes, museums and design studios.

That largely organic growth, the avante-garde nature of much of the work, and a fairly hands-off approach from the government may explain why the area has become a center of creativity.

"798 is in miniature a result of the marketization of China's art sector," said Wang Yanling, chairman of Beijing 798 Creative Industry Investment Co., the state-owned enterprise set up to run the district. "Chinese artists' work enjoy a high level of liberty and are priced by the market. Control is non-existent."

While dozens of artists in the country whose work has been censored by the government over the years may disagree, 798 is certainly maintaining its ability to mix creative talent with commercial success.

The 798 art district in Beijing, complete with a caged dinosaur.

Photographer : Gilles Sabrié/Bloomberg

The zone hosts the annual Beijing Design Week and tenants range from China Contemporary gallery and the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art to outlets of interior designers Song Tao and Patrick Jiang . Controversial artist Ai Weiwei last year held his first solo exhibition in China in 798.

Bernell, who closed his bookstore in the area in 2012 and now runs the Timezone8 restaurant, says the government has helped keep rents in the area affordable for artists and designers.

"Probably for the first time in the history of mankind the government intervened on behalf of art, contemporary art, and put road blocks to commercialization," says Bernell, 54, who started collecting Chinese art in his 20s. "There is a quota of enterprises that can be in 798 and the absolute priority in terms of rent control is for art-related galleries, studios, auction houses, anything to do with art."

Confidence in Innovation

Signs of China's growing confidence in innovation are visible elsewhere in the country, from the software incubators of Shenzhen to the research institutes of companies like Tencent Holdings Ltd. Tencent's WeChat messaging app, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s online commerce platform and Lenovo's computers are all world-class products.

The Global Innovation Index 2015 put China among a group of middle-income countries that are outperforming their peers.

There are barriers still to be overcome. The nation's education system is still largely dominated by rote learning, strict discipline and cramming, often constraining the kind of innovative thinking needed to create breakthrough products such as iPhones or Facebook.

Still, Metz says when he began an earlier stint in the country in 2005, local staff never questioned what they were told.

"Right or wrong, they took what I said for granted," he recalls. Now, "China is going forward so fast that it even sets trends worldwide."

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Art openings and events: Butterfly By The Sea celebrates three years

Butterfly By The Sea, a butterfly-themed gift shop in Pacific Grove that sells works by local artists, painters, sculptors and photographers, marks three years in business this week. The store's July 1 celebration features live music, appetizers and specials. Join the festivities from 6 to 9 p.m. at 623 Lighthouse Ave. in Pacific Grove. Call 831-402-3011 for more information.

Opening

FRIDAY, JULY 1

Pacific Grove Art Center: "Expressions of Wildlife," paintings by Debbie Griest; "Our Piece of Paradise," Monterey Bay Plein Air Painters Association; "Monochrome and Color," photographs by Ron Horner; Tiny Treasures fundraiser; works by Fedor Mukhin. Reception 7-9 p.m., 568 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. 831-375-2208, www.pgartcenter.org. Through Aug. 25

Events

FRIDAY, JULY 1

Tiny Treasures raffle: Pacific Grove Art Center's annual miniatures fundraiser. Raffle tickets are $5 each or $40 for 10. Winning tickets drawn Aug. 25. 568 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. 831-375-2208, www.pgartcenter.org. Through Aug. 25

Classes and workshops

SATURDAYS, JULY 9-30

Seaside Art Academy: Topic is large-scale projects. Class for ages 13-18. 1-4 p.m., Seaside Youth Center, 1136 Wheeler St. $30-$35. Enroll at 831-899-6800.

Call for artists

DEADLINE JULY 25

West End Celebration: Artists and artisans are invited to show and sell their work at this annual Sand City festival Aug. 27-28. Vendor applications and details at westendcelebration.com.

Closing

THROUGH JUNE 30

Marjorie Evans Gallery: "Coming Full Circle: Being Where You Are," artist Judith Marshall presents an exhibit focused on her mother's life from 1945-62 as it parallels her childhood in Greeley, Colorado. In Sunset Center at Ninth Avenue and San Carlos Street, Carmel. www.sunsetcenter.org.

Monterey Peace and Justice Center: Students from Carmel High School created art pieces expressing their ideas about social justice, using various media. 1364 Fremont Blvd., Seaside. 831-899-7322, www.PeaceCentral.wordpress.com.

THROUGH JULY 1

Winfield Gallery: "David Ligare: A Median Sea." Dolores Street between Ocean and Seventh avenues, Carmel. 831-624-3369, winfieldgallery.com.

THROUGH JULY 5

Carmel Art Association: "The Funny Side of the Street," over 20 new paintings by Will Bullas; "Scenes and Sights," new semi-abstract paintings by Dick Crispo. Dolores Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, Carmel. 831-624-6176, www.carmelart.org.

Current shows

THROUGH JULY 7

Open Ground Studios Third Anniversary Celebration: First-ever juried student and member exhibition. 1230 Fremont Blvd., Seaside. 831-241-6919, www.opengroundstudios.com.

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THROUGH JULY 17

Carmel Visual Arts Gallery: "City Centric," an exploration of the San Francisco Bay Area by the FotoSága women's photography group. The Barnyard Shopping Village, Highway 1 and Carmel Valley Road, Carmel. 831-620-2955, www.carmelvisualarts.com.

THROUGH JULY

Edge Gallery: New gallery in Carmel Valley Village features contemporary art, including works by Johnny Apodaca, Stefani Esta and Inge Heidrick. 8 Del Fino Place. 831-620-5779.

THROUGH AUG. 28

Monterey Peninsula Art Foundation Gallery: "Sunshine From The Row," paintings, sculpture, photographs, ceramics, prints, greeting cards, silks and jewelry from more than 30 local artists. 425 Cannery Row, Monterey. 831-655-1267, mpaf.org.

THROUGH SEPT. 5

Monterey Museum of Art-Pacific Street: "The 2016 Weston Scholarship Exhibition," black and white fine art photography from Monterey County high school and college students. 559 Pacific St., Monterey. 831-372-5477, www.montereyart.org.


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Lakeshore Art Festival keeps it fresh with new attractions this year

MUSKEGON, MI — There are several new reasons to visit the Lakeshore Art Festival this year.

The Lakeshore Art Festival will fill the streets of downtown Muskegon Friday, July 1 and Saturday, July 2 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Two new Thursday events will preceded the festivities this year, and entertainment for kids has also been expanded.

"We always want to create something new and unique to add to the event," said Carla Flanders, festival director. "We just really want to express art in the community by adding elements each year that allows us to obtain freshness in art realm and a newness (to the festival) each year."

Muskegon's newest public art mural will be unveiled on Thursday before the festival kicks off at 4:30 p.m. The mural promotes Muskegon's Spring Industry and is funded by Motion Dynamics Corporation, Scherdel Sales and Technology and Michigan Spring and Stamp. The new piece is located on the west side of the Holiday Inn and Conference Center's Third Street Grille along West Western Avenue at Third Street. 

In partnership with the Muskegon Museum of Art, all exhibiting artists are invited to attend an public reception after the dedication from 5 to 8 p.m. in the museum. Residents will get an opportunity to meet the artists and enjoy happy hour hors' devours and a cash bar.

Visitors can also use a new Art Walk map to find permanent art and sculptures throughout downtown Muskegon.

"This is a really cool feature, we've identified all of the public art along the Heritage District route," Flanders said. "We have 31 pieces all labelled (in maps) available at the info booth, so if people can look at fine art in the park and also take a stroll and see all of our sculptures."

Visitors and residents can visit downtown Muskegon during the Lakeshore Art Festival before heading to Heritage Landing for the 7th Annual Muskegon RockStock concert series on July 1 and 2. A fireworks show for the Fourth of July will end the festivities on Saturday after sunset.

While they like to add new events each year, Flanders said organizers like to keep community favorites at the festival. She said some exhibitors have returned for years because they know it's a good show.

There are 140 booth spaces available — 20 more than last year — for exhibitors to feature art in Hackley Park this year. A crafts section will run on Western Avenue and Clay Street between Fourth and First Streets.

Various food vendors representing local restaurants and street performers including jugglers, musicians, yo-yoers, hula hoopers will also available downtown.

Returning to the event this year is the Community Canvas Project, offering visitors the chance to paint for free on multiple large-scale canvases that will later be cut, stretched over frames and sold to benefit Family Promise of the Lakeshore.

The Lakeshore Art Festival Children's Lane, newly branded "Step into Art," features performances and creative art activities for kids on July 1 and 2.

The popular Barnyard Express will return with a petting zoo and interactive shows. New to the Children's Lane this year will be fun and lively performances by Cirqueamongus, a comedic, interactive and acrobatic circus show, and daily puppet shows by Kevin Kammeraad & Friends.

Steve Gyrb joins the Children's Lane with his Percussion Petting Zoo, an interactive musical activity filled with hundreds of unique percussion instruments from around the world.

An artful scavenger hunt is available to be picked up at the Children's Lane booth. Children's Lane is being coordinated by Fit4Mom Muskegon and supported by Alcoa. 

Opportunities for volunteering are still available until June 30. Flanders said the festival needs people to help keep the streets clean, set up and takedown booths and sell merchandise.

For more details on all of the events happening during the festival and how to get involved, visit www.lakeshoreartfestival.org.

Malachi Barrett covers community news for MLive Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at mbarret1@mlive.com and follow him on Twitter @PolarBarrett or on Facebook.


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A Multisensory Art Experience That Starts in Chelsea — and Ends in Beacon

Photo
Isabel Lewis's "Occasions and Other Occurrences" for Dia starts on Friday nights in Chelsea and winds up over the weekend in Beacon. Credit Don Stahl

Last Friday night, inside an industrial building on West 22nd Street, guests slumped into white sofas, sipped beers and chatted; some studied the foliage that had been installed in the space with a web of cords. The Berlin-based artist Isabel Lewis took the mic, lowered the volume of the music and thanked the crowd for coming. She named a few of the people she'd already met; then she asked a man who identified himself as "Doug from around the corner" if he thought he had a soul.

This seamlessly glided into a group discussion and, later, Kizomba, a type of dance that originated in Angola. In lieu of a formal waitstaff passing hors d'oeuvres, a casually dressed woman holding a platter asked, "Do you want some food?" It was all part of the first segment of Lewis's Di a commission, "Occasions and Other Occurrences," which runs on the weekends through mid-July. Lewis introduced "Occasions" at the Manchester International Festival in 2013 and has brought them to Frieze London and the Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève, among other places; she describes them as experiences that address all five senses. This one begins at the art foundation's Chelsea location, continues on the M.T.A. Metro-North Railroad with a downloadable mixtape and ends in Beacon at Long Dock Park.

Here, Lewis fields T's questions in the form of a mini-Occasion.

Photo
A scene from last Friday night's event. Credit Don Stahl

A sound sample by Isabel Lewis for Dia:Chelsea

How did you approach the Dia commission?

I was compelled by Dia's relation to both N.Y.C. and Beacon; I understood early in my process of developing the new occasions that I wanted to bring out the strength and specificity of both of these locations. In the city, there is this density of human interrelations and activities contained by the architecture and the urban plan. In the Hudson Valley, the quietness and the landscape are just as powerful as the intensity of the city but in a completely different way.

How does it all unfold?

The Friday evenings in Chelsea focus on our inter-human rela tions and the intertwining of the organic and the technological. Visitors enter into a decorated space with furniture elements that I've designed and that organize bodies in space in a specific way. The five senses are addressed and as the host, I weave together contemporary Angolan music, a partner-dance style called Kizomba and conversation.

The train ride sets the mood for the Saturday and Sunday occasions in Beacon. When visitors enter Long Dock Park, they are surrounded by music coming from a sound system that's integrated into the landscape, and they can relax on the wooden furniture that I've created and placed throughout the park. There, I am joined by dancers and the choreography is intimately related to the features of the park and is happening everywhere at once, so there is no single viewpoint for experiencing it.

Photo
Lewis in Beacon. Credit Eva Deitch

A sound sample by Isabel Lewis for the train ride

You've said you're dealing with the relationship between "inner spaces" and "outer spaces." What does that mean?

It started with me, a contemporary human being, looking at my surroundings and noticing that today, when we speak about the soul or the spirit, it sounds esoteric or that it isn't to be taken seriously. It doesn't feel comfortable to talk about these things; you have to give a disclaimer like, "I'm not a religious person," or "I'm not crazy," or "Maybe it's my intuition, but…" I became curious about the notion of the soul before we adopted a scientific worldview around the time of the Enlightenment and there was this transition, the only things we could understand as real or relevant were that which we could see or prove.

From ancient Greece and through the Middle Ages, there are many different versions and articulations of this soul-spirit-body connection and that disappears after a while. It's interesting to me to reconsider how the contemporary, "enlightened" individual can reapproach this idea of the soul or of the "inner space."

What is your role as the artist and as the host?

Traditionally, the artist creates a work, be it an object, a piece of orchestral music, a stage work, which will then often be placed before the visitor and this produces a kind of confrontation between the subject and the object. As a host, I blur these distinctions because I find myself and the visitors in the m idst of a social situation. While hosting, I am shaping this situation and also being responsive to how it develops, similar to a gardener and her garden.

Photo
Chairs of Lewis's design at Long Dock Park in Beacon. Credit Eva Deitch

A sound sample by Isabel Lewis for Dia:Beacon

What sort of preparation does this entail?

There's a level of craft that a person develops over time with these live situations and I've had a lot of experience guiding and steering live situations. But it absolutely takes a lot of preparation, a lot of thinking through multiple scenarios and always seeing 360 degrees around any particular element. Then, for weeks, I had been going to Kizomba parties and meeting people from this community, and also inviting them to my space as it was being built to meet and dance together so they would feel comfortable there. It's a many-layered process and a lot of fine tuning and practice to arrive at a result that feels spontaneous, and the composition is actually emerging in real time but you have to prepare the right conditions for this emer gence.

Why does this belong in an art space?

Jerry Saltz has this term "post-art," which is not an uninteresting term in relation to what I'm doing. My occasions exist between different genres and, as such, they can be housed in an art space, they can be housed at a music venue, they could happen in a private home or in a garden, or as part of a theater or dance festival — but they don't belong to any one such place.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Are The Art World’s ‘Peripheries’ Becoming the New Centers?

In the Tate's announcement of Frances Morris's appointment as the new director of the Tate Modern this past January, the museum—whose new building has just opened—highlighted the fact that Morris, until then the museum's director of collection of international art, has "been credited with promoting the Tate Modern's global profile" and "has shaped and developed Tate's international collection."

"Global" and "international" are in fact key aspects of Tate Modern's collecting policy and related acquisition budget, and the institution has active acquisition committees in place for Africa, North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and North Africa, Russia and Eastern Europe, and South Asia. Interestingly, Tate, a major institution in a country known for its strong national identity—as demonstrated by Brexit—is leading the way in terms of how museums understand, value, and display art by placing traditional centers and peripheries side by side.

The new Tate Modern, by Herzog & de Meuron. Courtesy of Tate Modern, Photo by ©Iwan Baan

The new Tate Modern, designed by Herzog & de Meuron. Courtesy of Tate Modern, Photo by ©Iwan Baan

The example of Tate Modern, whose collection rooms employ a unique anti-chronological structure in which works by British, Western and non-Western artists are presented next to each other, is just the symptom of a greater shift that sees certain areas of the world becoming "peripheral centers." In fact it comes as no surprise that one of the major partners in building the collection of the Tate is Outset, which describes itself as "the only global, privately funded and independent philanthropic body constituted to support new art for the public good." Founded in 2003 in London by Candida Gertler and Yana Peel, it has branches in England, Germany, Israel, India, The Netherlands, Greece, Scotland, and Estonia.

A similar example is The Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative whose goal is to foster "cross-cultural interaction between artists, curators, and audiences via educational programs, online activities, and collection building" and focusing on three regions—South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. With UBS's support, the Guggenheim Foundation has hired three curators, for three regions—Singaporean June Yap, Mexican Pablo León de la Barra, and British-born Iranian Sara Raza—who traveled throughout their respective regions in order to buy works from local artists that would become part of the Guggenheim's collection, and exhibited as thematic shows there. The exhibitions are to subsequently tour to institutions such as the Jumex Foundation in Mexico City and the CCA in Singapore.

Sara Raza, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Middle East and North Africa. Photo: Courtesy of the Guggenheim.

Sara Raza, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Middle East and North Africa.
Photo: Courtesy of the Guggenheim.

But this shift in focus away from the traditional centers is also related to artists' own movements. While the 1990s saw the big cities attracting artists from all over the world—Maurizio Cattelan, Mariko Mori, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Shirin Neshat, Gabriel Orozco have all moved to New York, for example—the 2000s saw a the map of artistic hubs decentralizing: artists from Romania, Poland, Mexico, Czech Republic, Brazil, Indonesia—often protégés of the aforementioned artists (take Orozco, and his students Abraham Cruzvillegas, Daniel Guzmán, and Damián Ortega)—preferred to stay in their home countries, but without compromising their ability to exhibit in major museums. As a result, they arguably became even more appealing to such institutions precisely because of the integrity that such a position implies.

At the same time, the art community is increasingly moving away from discussions of nationality in favor of two parallel models: firstly, by looking at regions rather than nations; and secondly, at cities as art centers independent of the countries they're in. In these "central peripheries," however, it's important to remember that because of infrastructures are different, the roles—that of the artist, the critic, the curator, the gallery owner, the collector—as well as models such as commercial versus non-profit, private versus public, institutional versus alternative, are more fluid. Artist open galleries, private collections act as public museums, critics become agents, commercial galleries behave like art centers, and so on. (Though one could argue this fluidity is symptomatic of the art world at large).

Looking at Europe, three examples are deserving of mention: Fabrica de Pensule, founded in 2009 in Cluj-Napoca; Tranzitdisplay, founded in 2007 in Prague; and Foksal Gallery Foundation, founded in 1997 in Warsaw.

Fabrica de Pensule, Cluj. Courtesy Fabrica de Pensule

Fabrica de Pensule, Cluj. Courtesy Fabrica de Pensule

The epicenter of the vibrant scene in Transylvania, Fabrica de Pensule is a disused paintbrush factory now turned into a multifunctional building including artists studios, galleries—such us Plan b and Galeria Sabot—artist-run-spaces, as well as a theater, a performance venue, and a nightclub. Thanks to international starts like Ciprian Muresan and Adrian Ghenie, who both still live in Cluj, Fabrica de Pensule is often visited by curators and gallery owners and even Okwui Enwezor, while preparing his "Intense Proximity: La Triennale 2012" in Paris, came and selected young star Mihuț Boșcu Kafchin, who was the youngest artist in the show, as well as veteran Miklos Onucsan.

Tranzitdisplay is a unique situation, linking an artist-led-initiative and a corporate cultural venture. While Display was an artist-run-space initiated in 2001 by Tomáš Svoboda and Zbyněk Baladrán, Tranzit is sponsored by the Erste Bank; if Tranzit has branches in Vienna, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, its Czech branch is peculiar for its marriage with the artist-run Display, and for its leaders, curator Vít Havránek and artist Zbyněk Baladrán, who have become some of the most respected voices in contemporary art, especially through special projects such as "Report on the Construction of a Spaceship Module" presented at the New Museum, and through their roles in Tranzit's curatorial project for Manifesta 8.

adam-szymczyk-documenta-gurlitt

Adam Szymczyk was appointed Director of the 14th Documenta in 2013

Foksal Gallery Foundation takes its name from the historical Galeria Foksal and acts simultaneously as commercial gallery and art center, representing Polish stars such as Wilhelm Sasnal, Monika Sosnowska, and Jakub Julian Ziółkowski (all now represented also by the Swiss mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth) and doing special projects with foreign artists such as Yael Bartana and Lucy McKenzie. A real powerhouse in Poland and beyond, FGF has an amazing network behind it. While Andrzej Przywara—who worked at the original Foksal from 1988 to 2001 and then founded FGF with Joanna Mytkowska and Adam Szymczyk—still runs the place, Mytkowska went first to the Pompidou and now directs the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, while Szymczyk went first to Kusthalle Basel and is now directing the 2017 edition of Documenta.

Rirkrit Tiravanija, after Julius Koller, (2012) at kurimanzutto. Courtesy of kurimanzutto

Rirkrit Tiravanija, after Julius Koller, (2012) at kurimanzutto. Courtesy of kurimanzutto

Similar to Foksal is kurimanzutto, which was conceived as a nomadic space in the late 1990s by Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco together with Mónica Manzutto and José Kuri, and now is the most important private gallery in Mexico. Located in a former industrial bakery in Mexico City, the gallery has a large gallery space, a library, a social area, a kitchen and a bar, acting as a venue for exhibitions—they represent the most important Mexican artists alongside international artists such as Relational aesthetics pioneer Rirkrit Tiravanija and YBA Sarah Lucas—but also as a laboratory and meeting place for the local community.

Sheikha Hoor Al-Qasimi President of the Sharjah Art Foundation and the Director of the Sharjah Biennial, she has also been chosen as the curator for next year's United Arab Emirates Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Photo: Courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation.

Sheikha Hoor Al-Qasimi, President of the Sharjah Art Foundation and the Director of the Sharjah Biennial. Courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation.

Although full of contradictions, the Middle East has also played a crucial role in the expansion of institutional focus. The most interesting initiatives in this region are the Sharjah Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates, and Artis, based in Tel Aviv and New York. Founded in 2009 by Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, the Sharjah Art Foundation is in charge with the Sharjah Biennial—which was curated by major players such as Suzanne Cotter and Yuko Hasegawa—and the March Meeting—the most polyphonic art event in the Muslim world, from Africa to India, via the Middle East—among other activities. Founded in 2004 by Rivka Saker, Chairman of Sotheby's Israel, and functioning as a private cultural council, Artis helped boost the international visibility of artists such as Public Movement, Guy Ben-Ber, Yael Bartana, and Sigalit Landau, but also took part in the dialogue around the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

In a time defined by globalization, connectivity, and post-Post-Colonialism, institutions do well to shift their gaze towards the so-called "peripheral centers," but also to take an inclusive approach to displaying art coming from centers farther afield side by side with positions more clearly associated with Western centers. Highlighting complexity and multiplicity, the binaries of the past are finally being read as an inclusive pattern.

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A silent service to art forms

K. Raman Kutty's contributions to conserving Kerala's performing art forms are immense.

He runs the State's only unit making 'Koppu' at Kothavil here, the accessories and headgear for the traditional performing art forms such as Kathakali, Chakyarkoothu, Koodiyattam, Nangiarkoothu, Krishnanattam, Ottan Thullal, and Theyyam.

Raman Kutty started learning the basics of carpentry under the tutelage of his father Krishnan Asari at the age of five.

Named after Krishnan Asari, the unit supplies Kathakali headgears to artistes and research centres and cultural institutions worldwide, which have affinity to Kerala's traditional art forms. Raman Kutty's sons Unnikrishnan and Govindankutty help their father run the unit.

"It was about six decades ago my father started making Kathakali headgears and that too at the behest of eminent artiste Kalamandalam Krishnankutty Poduval. At that time, there were many carpenters involved in the profession. Now, my sons are helping me continue with the tradition braving many odds. More than a job, it is our mission," said Raman Kutty, 68.

"It will take about 30 days to make a headgear by chiselling wood of the rare Kumizh tree. We also manufacture wooden ornaments for the artistes. Though a headgear is priced at Rs. 30,000, the profit is less because of the scarcity of raw material and the efforts involved," he said.

"The Koppu comprises all decorations used by a performer. There are variations depending on the nature of art form and the individual characters. The wood is light and therefore easy on the performer. It is durable and has medicinal qualities," says Raman Kutty. He even taught the subject at the Kerala Kalamandalam. He, later, set up the Koppu Kendram at his home after the institution dropped the course after two years.

About the income from the profession, he says, "Enough? Not really. But we manage. Art forums and festivals are increasing, and that, in a way, benefits us too".

"Foreign artistes who come to Kerala to learn our art forms are often guided here. Some of them get one or more sets of Koppu made to take back to their countries," Raman Kutty says.

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'The Art of "The Strain"' author book signing on Wednesday

If you're a fan of the FX TV series, "The Strain," or more generally of Guillermo del Toro's work, then head on over to Burbank's Dark Delicacies (3512 W. Magnolia Blvd.) Wednesday evening from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Robert Abele, author of Insight Editions "Art of The Strain" will be signing books.

"I'd done a couple of books for Insight Editions. They do all these wonderful 'art of' books," Abele commented in a telephone interview. If you're wondering how Abele got the job, it's all about connections.

Abele is a Los Angeles-based film critic and journalist who has become something of an expert on vampires. His pieces have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and the LA Weekly. He knew someone on the Twilight Saga team who "hooked" him up for the a book on another vampire reality taken from book to screen: "The Twilight Saga: The Complete Film Archive" (2012).

If you're unfamiliar with Insight Editions, this book publisher creates distinctive illustrated books that "celebrate cultural milestones in entertainment, history and arts." Guillermo del Toro called them the best when I spoke to him about the "Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness."

For "The Art of The Strain," the book jacket is thick quality paper with a poster quality image for both the front and back. Underneath, the cover of the hardback book has a different illustration that compliments the cover. Guillermo del Toro wrote the introduction which briefly reveals how he came to obsess about vampires.

Abele commented that Insight Editions' books are for people who are "fans of strong art direction" or movies and TV shows with a "strong visual sense."

When Abele came on to "The Strain" book, the series was in the middle of shooting the first season. For those unfamiliar with the story, Del Toro had the idea for "The Strain" and attempted to gets a network interested in doing a television series. When that didn't work, del Toro teamed with writer Chuck Hogan to write a 2009 vampire horror novel, "The Strain." That was followed by "The Fall" in 2010 and "The Night Eternal" in 2011." Del Toro's version of vampirism is far removed from the Twilight Saga. As he describes it in his foreword for "The Art of The Strain," that vampirism is "a form of systemic, sentient cancer."

Abele commented that the Twilight Saga harked back to the Victorian traditions where vampires were "associated with romanticism." Abele joked, "This is very much the two different 'strains" of vampire lore, pardon the pun. Twilight was the young virginal love reflected through vampires." With "The Strain, vampirism is more "biological, clinical and terrifying."

Yet, he maintains, that del Toro is "always thinking about emotions." Even in the "biologically-minded gory" version of vampires, love is "very much a factor of the story." Parents looking for sons. A man looking for his ex-wife.

Of course, del Toro had a lot to say with how the book turned out, Abele admitted. Before "The Strain" became a TV series (premiering on FX on July 13, 2014), it was a graphic novel (Dark Horse Books, 2012). Del Toro picked the artists and so the visual nature of the story was well developed before the TV series was underway. With a script by David Lapham and visuals by Mike Huddleston and Dan Jackson, the graphic novels became like development storyboards.

Abele hadn't read the novels or the graphic novels before he learned about the project, but once on the team, he did his research. "One of the funny things I learned from Guillermo when I interviewed him was he wanted to make this show like this 1970s drama 'Kolchak: The Night Stalker.'" For those of you unfamiliar with the short-lived one season ABC series, Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) was a Chicago newspaper reporter. Kolchak was first introduced with two TV movies, "The Night Stalker" in 1972 and "The Night Strangler" in 1973.
In "The Night Stalker," Kolchak suspects that a Las Vegas serial killer is actually a vampire. In "The Night Strangler," Kolchak is now working in Seattle, Washington and believes that the killer of exotic dancers requires a feasting on blood for a period of time in order to make him immortal. The TV series expanded from vampires to include werewolves, mummies, witches and zombies.
Abele was also a fan of the original Kolchak series and found tha t del Toro had a great way of describing things. "He has very vivid way with words."

Working with del Toro didn't change the way he felt about the director in terms of how he was a great filmmaker, but it was illuminating to listen to how this project was developed. "My favorite passage is about what goes on inside the body when a vampire has attacked. It is terrifying gross detail that you'll never see depicted. It's both hilarious and disgusting." Yet Abele feels this illustrates the "full on commitment" del Toro has to such a project.

As with most of his work, del Toro usage of color is important. With "The Strain," gold and blues symbolize day and night. Red is used very sparingly. "When red showed up as blood or in some other way, it has to be important to the viewer," Abele explained. Think of that red dress of the dead girl calling to her father during Season 1. There's love as both the strength and weakness of the human species.

Other things that tickled Abele was learning from the production designer that a tunnel was built and redressed and redressed to be different tunnels. Other sets were scavenged for tunnel material to create a "franken-tunnel."

"This book is a Gray's Anatomy vampire book. The vampire biology is fantastic. It's a great chance to see the work of all the artists from the beginning," Abele described the book. The content is divided into: A Viral Idea, The Hunters, A Master Plan, The Infected and It Spreads. The Hunters and A Master Plan look at the main characters. The Infected describes the kind of training under choreographer Roberto Campenella the actors had to undergo because in del Toro's mind, there are four stages in the vampiral infection. Vamp camp as it was dubbed helped to develop and concept of progressive stages of the infection, but how to film the growing numbers for Season 2 and other logistical problems are touched on.

If you're a fan of the series, this is more than a coffee table book. It is a behind-the-scenes book made like an art exhibition catalog. If you're a fan and want to cosplay, this book gives you beautiful photographs and sketches to serve as a foundation to begin your own creative enterprises.

The book is currently available at Dark Delicacies (3512 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank). Abele will be there Wednesday evening from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. signing books. Insight Editions will also be at San Diego Comic-Con.


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