Neon art in Long Island City

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“You end up making a lot of words in the world of neon,” Krypton Neon Studio co-founder and artist Kenny Greenberg said as he sifted through a pile of discarded words in his Long Island City shop. Twisted white tubes that turn a spectrum of bright colors when plugged in lay on the concrete ground — “smile,” “come,” “the,” “a” and “extraordinary.”

The words come from broken signs and Broadway play displays. The “a” came from a neon piece for the traveling performance of “The Producers.” During the show’s travels they broke the “a” several times, and Krypton would have to ship a replacement to wherever they were. After several last minute Fed-Exes they decided to make a backup just in case.

The “a” never broke again.

Some of the other words were literally left on Greenberg’s doorstep.

When he owned a shop on Vernon Boulevard, people who presumably didn’t want their neon signs anymore, but didn’t know how to discard the toxic tubes, would, by cover of night or silently during the day, drop the broken signs on his doorstep.

Greenberg will be combining these words and new works for “Word,” which is one of the many exhibits during this week’s LIC Arts Open — a neighborhood event when galleries, stores, studio and performance spaces display recent and loved works.

Greenberg will team with neon artist and Krypton employee Tom Unger and artist William Garrett as well.

Unger created a piece that plays with the words “walk, slide, trip, stumble and fall.”

Each word ruminates on what it means. The letters in “slide” look like they are sliding. The “m” in “stumble“ stumbles over the “b” and the “b” over the “l.”

“The works play with the feel of the word,” said Unger, who rarely creates words for his artistic pieces, though he has penned several columns on neon technique for a trade journal. (Of course writing about neon is much different than creating neon words.)

The third artist in the show, Garrett, opts not to use fire and gases to create his art.

Instead he will hang several magnetic panels throughout the lit-up space.

One series, “Relationships parts 1, 2 and 3,” is made of grids of repeating words. One will have 23 framed magnets that say “love” and one “you.” Another panel is the same concept but lots of “thanks” and one “you.” The last is lots of the four-letter word that starts with “f” and one “you.”

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“Obviously Fu** can have a double meaning” Garrett said.

Such is the same for “We should have done it on the first night.” This piece will not be shown, but led to the exhibited “It’s your dirty mind not mine.”

Garrett’s then-12-year-old daughter years ago questioned her father’s sexy phrase. To that he replied she was the one with her mind in the gutter.

“Define ‘it’,” he said. “It could have been laundry on the first night, or really anything.”

“The meaning is in the eye of the beholder,” Garrett said, adding that it is the point of show to be full of double entendres and at times “massively immature.”

Which makes this show just that much more fun.

 

Originally print in the Queens Chronicle.

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Jeff Koons doesn’t make anything… I think

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Jeff Koons makes me want to hit someone.

I understand the idea behind artists who don’t actually make things. Some comic book artists don’t create all of their drawings anymore, but at one time they did. They have the capability to create art and that’s what catapulted them to success. Someone saw their talent and gave them a job.

However, from the information I’ve gleaned from Googling “Does Jeff Koon make his own art?” is that he doesn’t and he never has. It’s hard to say because there isn’t much about his beginnings, but I’m fairly certain. In the New York Magazine article “Jeff Koons is the Most Successful American Artist Since Warhol” it says he once was a Wall Street man.

I believe he took that money and now he pays a team of 100 plus skilled artists to create his works. He has them make giant balloon animals and statues of pictures he saw in magazines or on postcards. Apparently he watches the artists closely while he circles his giant Chelsea studio with his ironic coffee mugs. Was he always the idea man never the artist?

“I’m basically the idea person,” Jeff Koons once told an interviewer, which was quoted in the New York Times article “I Was Jeff Koons’s Studio Serf.” “I’m not physically involved in the production. I don’t have the necessary abilities, so I go to the top people.”

In the article John Powers details how he created an artwork that pretty much zapped his own creative juices for Koons. The painting crashed to the ground and was broken. Powers, who is now a private detective, didn’t create the final version. However, someone did paint that image of a cracked egg and it subsequently sold in 2003 for $501,933.

Powers made $14 an hour.

Maybe that’s what pisses me off so much. Koons traded stocks and made probably an ass load. Now he micromanages other artists and makes even more.

I once interviewed an artist for this group show about corruption and money I was writing about. The artist had assembled a ping pong table between two walls. His point was that everything is a game and sometimes those games we play don’t work anymore.

I asked him if he made the table. He said no. He continued that art doesn’t haven’t to be made by the artist. It’s the idea behind it, he said.

His statement didn’t irk me.

Koons making so much money off things he doesn’t create and never did create does. His ideas aren’t even unique. They are slightly tweaked versions of images he has seen in pop culture.

This next statement is even more hypocritical than the rest of this article/rant, but … I like his art.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so critical. His wife was an artist who worked for him. You would think she would have some resentment, but it would seem by the half dozen kids they have created that she doesn’t.

Tricked-out bikes on Cinco de Mayo

I am in love with this photo— taken by yours truly.

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Yes it’s a little blurry, but the subject matter is just too great not to love. Here are these two men on their bikes that they have blinged out to the nines with gold plating and spinning rims. They’ve probably lowered the seats further and customized them more than what meets the eye.

The best part is the juxtaposition of the bubbles. Here are these bad ass boys riding through a stream of some little girls bubbles that is just out of sight. It’s like when I see big burly father with a shaved head and tattoo sleeves holding his daughter that has blond pig tails and has every inch of herself clothed in pink.

That just tickles me.

There were lots of bikes like these at the Cinco de Mayo celebration at Flushing Meadows Corona Park last Sunday. Some had twisted metal handle bar that look straight out of an episode of Orange County Choppers.

Tuned up art

“I started seeing televisions all over the street and I decided why not paint on the TVs” artist Ed Kaplan said.

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Walking into his basement art studio in Kew Gardens, it looks as if about a dozen old televisions are on pause. Arnold Schwarzenegger stares at his target and a gunfight erupts on a screen on the right.

 

But the televisions aren’t on pause. They aren’t even plugged in.

The photorealistic paintings are created by Kaplan with a fine paintbrush and an airbrush. His TV collection is on display at Freddy’s Bar at 627 Fifth Ave. in Brooklyn.Image

The idea behind the razzle dazzle truck

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It’s not your typical cement truck.

Last year Ridgewoood artist Andrea Bergart was biking by United Transit Mix in Brooklyn when the graffiti-covered facade caught her eye. Her boyfriend held her bike while she went inside to speak to the owner, Danny Mastronardi.

“Can I paint one of your trucks?” she asked him. She figured by the art outside his business that he must not be adverse to such a proposal. He said yes and Bergart got to work.

She was inspired by the documentary “Style Wars,” a film about graffiti-covered trains, and the “Razzle Dazzle” camouflage used by the British and U.S. navies on their ships during the world wars to confuse enemies, and had been brainstorming about art as a moving image.

Another inspiration was the time she spent living in Ghana’s biggest bead-trading community where, as part of Fulbright scholarship, she studied the history behind beads and where intricate patterns stem from.

“[The truck] reminds me of a giant bead,” she said.

She assembled a team and worked from 7 a.m. until about 6 p.m. painting the truck.

She slapped magnets on the rotating vessel, an idea she thought up after seeing magnetic advertisements on the sides of livery cabs, while the team painted the vehicle with splashes of bright green, yellow and pink. They then peeled off the spots and painted the negative black.

 

“I loved putting a feminine Lisa Frank pattern on a very masculine object,” Bergart said, referring to the popular rainbow-colored-animal school supply brand of the ’90s.

Next month she plans on tackling another cement tank.

The Queens Council on the Arts awarded Bergart a grant to make her idea a reality and ever since she has been busily experimenting with patterns.

“I want to create some sort of optical effect,” she said. “Not too much, but something fun.”

Taking inspiration from nail stick-ons and fabrics, Bergart draws patterns and rolls the paper like a paper towel tube. By rotating the pattern she is hoping to discover some sort of animation.

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“It’s sort of a game,” she said. “I want to create a corkscrew or an undulating in and out of the pattern as the [cement tank] turns.”

She plans to experiment with colors fading in and out, as well as making the piece of construction machinery a little more “masculine,” she said with a laugh, adding that nevertheless she does love pink, and the hue will probably make an appearance on her next work.

As part of the grant Bergart will be documenting the production of her truck art as well as how the vehicle looks in its surroundings. She will ride with the driver on jobs as well as trail behind to capture the perspective of residents in the neighborhoods as the machinery passes through. Many of her friends see her leopard-print vehicle roaming the streets of Brooklyn and will send her pictures like an Eye Spy game.

Bergart also intends to have her masterpiece parked in front of the Queens Museum of Art for some time, as a complement to a typical art experience.

 

Originally printed in the Queens Chronicle.

Her women

The pearl hosted an art fair of sorts this last weekend. A map collager, someone who paints photo realistic martini glasses, potters, metalsmiths — they were all there. But in my mind Jacquline Hurlbert stood out.
Her figurative sculptures are awesome. Her women are beautiful and creative.

Because the wall hangings are shaped in a classical Jesus on the cross pose it could be easy to read into them. Some of the pieces are reminiscent of Eve with birds and olive leaves. One has a hand extended like Mary and another wrapped like an angel.

Maybe she wants me to read into the art… But I would rather take these pieces as they are.
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Car crashes

This artist fits me. Not only does Dena Schuckit create brightly colored stylized acrylic paintings but she paints car crashes.
My first day at my new job at the Chronicle I wrote about two fatal car crashes on highway 30. Since then I have been keeping up with constant stream of ODOT reports about the danger of highway 30, the road I travel on for about a half hour each way each weekday.
I have grown somewhat paranoid about car crashes and have started night-maring about them.
Schuckit’s paintings play with line and repetition. Painting 1 uses the intersection of a multi-lane freeway to bring your eye to the subject of the painting — the crash. Once your eye lands on this disaster peach colored squares move counter clockwise around and in the crash. Blocks of pallet knife smears also keep your eye swirling around the accident. The heaviness of activity in the bottom left of the painting keeps your eye pulling down not floating up to the somewhat emptiness of the upper right.
Painting 2 does the same thing. The line, the water from the hose, brings your eye to the fire confetti and dissolving buildings. The red on the left side matches the uniforms of the fire fighters and brings you back to the bottom. So basically shes got you hooked: looking up and down and around. Very smart Schuckit.