It would be a tragedy if I traveled all the way to Hungary and not visit the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center. Their special exhibition titled 'Capa in Israel' documented his experience in the newly formed Jewish State from 1948 -1950. The showcase was small but the selection of images accurately depicted the struggles and emotions of families starting a new life in an unknown environment. When I review photographs I am generally drawn to raw or captivating moments. These are the types of things I like to convey in my own work. I rarely prioritize technical aspects as I believe a photograph can be fascinating and have these elements missing. Take a look at Eugene Atget's work if you do not believe me.
This exhibition visit was out of my routine - I often go solo but this time I was accompanied by another photographer based in New York. My exhibition buddy admires Capa strong composition and framing. I was surprised by him mentioning that Capa took into account the smallest details when taking photographs - something I never do. From number of port holes in the frame ( see below - he captured all three and centered them perfectly) to the depth of field I started to finally grasp my understanding of these technical elements. In order to accomplish this, it is important for a photographer to wait for moments to organically present themselves rather than catch subjects 'in the act'. It is clear that Capa did the former while I tend to gravitate to the latter. For the remainder of the trip I decided to take the 'Capa Approach' to everything - frame the shot and wait for moments to organically happen in front of me.
I have been in a serious rut for some time. My photos were not progressing and the season change has made the city mundane and the residents sluggish. At a total loss of how to improve, an acquaintance suggested taking a short trip to Europe. I agreed and off I went. Some people suggested I was mad to go off and meet a stranger in a foreign country. No issue for me - I just wanted to take photos from someone who was farther along in their craft. He is far more advance in his technical skills which can be seen in his . His superior composition and artistic skills are evident in his work partially due to his educational and professional background. If I could say one advantage of going to art school is definitely the discipline they provide you from long studio hours and peer critiques.
When I first arrived I initially freaked out - driving into the city I felt I was in a time warp - a 1980s - 1990s Soviet Union time warp (I found out later the country was occupied until 1990). I will not admit how it has been since I have been to Europe, but I forgot they are not into frills, large elevators, or making tons of small talk. Overall everyone was nice and I ran into no problems. Taking pictures on the streets was a breeze except for the old woman on the bridge who was offended by my camera pointing in her general direction (from 30 ft away) - she yelled in Hungarian and flipped me off. When I approached I tossed the grumpy bird some coins after she shook her cup at me. Only negative interaction that I had.
Overall the trip was a success. My travel companion helped me master night shots and long exposures -something I never done before. What is even more important that I learned more of the mechanics of how my camera functions. Sounds ridiculous I know but nothing like trial, error, and several amazing shots missed that you push yourself to do better. I am very lucky to find someone with the time and patience to help me through this process. Within 24 hours we were already planning our next excursion. Maybe Hong Kong or Europe again? Who knows. Stay Tuned.
Here are some few travel tips if you are planning on visiting soon -
Use cards or Forint
Retail shops and restaurants they take either Euros or Hungarian Forint. The shops prefer Forint so just go with that. The airport will convert your money with no commission (you can find places in the city that will as well)
Book an Airbnb
You are going to Europe so leave your high standards for luxury at home. Yes you can find a 5 star hotel but you will be so busy it is a total waste of money. This trip calls for the basic 'SSS' accommodations 'Sleep, Sh-t, and Shower' and that is all you need.
If you are picky about your hotels and on a budget, I suggest you find an Airbnb. Some will be as low as $10 per night for an entire apartment (yes, you read that correctly) and they are very comfortable. My host provided detailed instructions on how to get there as well a 'things to do' list
No, Budapest gets numerous travelers from Europe - especially from France, England, and Italy. You may not be able to have a conversation about the universe but you can get to point A to B fairly easily.
Fantastic. I am not big on 'food' or a 'foodie' (I am a size 00. Food is the devil) but take the time to find some good places to eat. You will not regret it. Definitely check out Cafe Central Ez Bizstro. One staple you will find is duck on almost any menu. If you are not a fan now you will be once you leave. I would stay away from duck liver but then again it is all about preference.
I did not take as many pictures as I anticipated. I realize now I rather go home with 5 amazing shots than 20 so-so ones. On the other hand, what may be so-so to a viewer may be some of my favorites.
Remember, you are in Europe. Unlike the States if you buy a glass of wine and chill for 8 hours no one would bat an eye. If you are in a hurry, then do not bother to be seated as they will get offended if you rush them. Try to be patient. Service is included in most bills (10-12%) and you will have to order (sometimes more than once) everything including water. Alcohol is cheap: 3-7 dollars for a drink but if you are on a tight budget Budapest is open container. Woo!
Public Bath Houses
Ah, yes. The infamous bath houses. Again, not the peak of luxury. I can only speak of the one I visited behind the Gellert Hotel and it was not glamorous. The set up is quite confusing and it is hard to communicate to the staff that you are a foreigner who has no idea what is going on. If you bring valuables then definitely get a private changing room as they are electronically locked with your bracelet. Bring towels and a swim cap if you would like to use the swimming pool. In the summer the entire outdoor deck is open but only one was open for winter. Just try to relax, ignore the smells, and you will walk out refresh and happy.
The art critic who would find an issue with just about anything - from the air he breathes to the sun in the sky.
After reading his appalling review of Yayoi Kusma's Infinity Mirrors at the Broad, Mr. Knight struck again by popping up in another article in ArtNews. Initially I was convinced his criticism fell only in the spectrum of Kusama but was relieved to know that no one is safe from his succinct insults on Contemporary Art. His latest gripe was with Adrián Villar Roja 's show at the Geffen Contemporary Space in Little Tokyo. Replicating art pieces Rojas utilizes these elements to demonstrate a relationship between art and space. A few questions are considered : How would viewers move through the space? How can the space be modified to accommodate the art? What items should be moved and what can stay in its original place? Rojas' objective is to provide a visual timeline of how a space begins and ends - the creation, the preservation, and decomposition. Will the art or the space survive? What should we draw our focus to? Diaoism describes this with water - strong, yet weak. Able to conform and change based on its environment. While the space can change and survive the movement of the art, the art itself (as seen with the Bicycle sculpture) cannot survive without human intervention.
There is hardly any art critics that will be bold enough to express their disappointment for not one but two exhibitions in 9 days. Knight seems to not be fond of work that challenges a viewer's ability to see the perspective of the artist. Work with extensive technical requirements are more his bread and butter. Contemporary Artists from his standpoint seem to provide no 'it' factor than their predecessors. One must wonder why he even bothers to attend the shows. A deadline perhaps? We all need to pay the bills by some means. A sticking point may be not the concept of the show but the fact that Rojas disagreed that Duchamp's work was not preserved in a manner that was 'respectful'.
Knight needs to start embracing the new era of Contemporary Art. The shift from technical masterpieces to work that invokes conversation may be considered trendy but relevant. Is it so scary that the possibility of Duchamp's work was relevant then and not now? His unwillingness to explore the topic is all too sad.
Adrián Villar Roja's "The Theater of Disappearance" is being held at Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles now until May 13, 2018.
Adrián Villar Roja, "The Theater of Disappearance (detail)," 2017, mixed media Christopher Knight / Los Angeles Times
Traveling soon. I needed to make an account with United Airlines (I want points) and this security question came up:
Who is your favorite artist?
Well, this is new. No need to type in a name United Airlines had a whole list for your to choose from. The names fell into three categories - World Famous. I know who your work but not your name, and 'This is new. You just blew my mind.'
Let us talk about a few:
The work was nothing short of appalling - I nearly gagged on my Special K when staring at the image of a decapitated cow illustrating the circle of life in his piece titled ' A Thousand Years ' . When you get over the initial shock, you tend to wonder with these labor intensive pieces if he is going for a 'Ripley's Believe it or Not' effect or simply to impress his audience with preserved animals one would find on a farm or a child's petting zoo. Due to my rare use of color in my own work I cannot help but be drawn to his butterfly pieces, but still the thought of these creatures killed for the sake of art disturbs my morality. Hirst's lack of respect for all living things seems to have caught up to him - his current show has been met with scathing views and rightfully so. A dramatic shift from his shtick to capture a story of -- he could have [rather his assistants] have gotten a subtle him from a quick google search the idea would have generated lukewarm interest at best. It seems that Hirst confined himself in a box that would take significant effort to expand beyond it. His current exhibition proves he has much work to do. I doubt I would like to be forever known as a wealthy living artist who made his fortune on killing animals in which one would equate this behavior to sociopathic tendencies if he was a 13 year old boy.
I know him. Ai Wei Wei's exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago had a photo of Huan performing one of his pieces '12 Square Meters'. No question performance art has taken center stage in recent years thanks to some of the efforts of Marina Abramovic. Yes, there is hypocrisy in me praising Huan and shunning Hirst despite both using animals in their work. He does not go for the 'wow' factor but provides a powerful visual representation to his roots and the philosophies of Buddhism. Succinct I know but Huan is so complex it would take an entire novel to peel back the layers of accomplishments of this individual's work.
Who cannot appreciate meticulous sculptures on a grand scale with everyday objects? I love it. That is all that needs to be said.
Fun Fact: I read an absurd amount of publications every week. The Harvard Business Review just wrote a piece about how Photography can be used as an ice-breaker that can connect colleagues with one another. I could do all the talking but I think they explain it better than I can. Link here.
The transition to fall gets most people excited in the city for Blackhawks, football, and apple picking. I on the other hand am excited for one particular weekend in October and that is Open House.
You'd be surprised how many people in the city don't partake in the annual ritual or know anything about it. 48 hours (more like 16) to visit 200 sites where you can look up, down, and all around historical sites, skyscrapers, mesmerizing homes, and art studios. My intent was to get some inspiration and practice but instead I would say I got a little bit of spiritual awakening. I ventured to religious sites and I have never felt so comfortable in a church. One visit that stuck out was the Saints Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in West Town. Every detail - including the color of Jesus' clothing to the entrance facing the West had a reason behind it. The staff and priest were very kind and inviting to all the visitors. We even got the opportunity to witness a Christening taking place.
The press always insist visitors should see Yale House and I made the effort this year to do so. I was underwhelmed when I first walked in but I warmed up to it as my visit progressed. A historical site that caters to elderly residents with canary yellow walls, high ceilings, and unique staircase makes it a wonder and very photogenic building.
I only saw a small number of sites due to the small time frame. No question I will have to be to be strategic next year - 16 hours is not a lot of time to see your short list. Even though I was exhausted by Sunday evening it is all well worth the effort.
There is not much I can say about EXPO this year only that I was beyond disappointed. It was smaller, less exciting, and the art did not leave much to the imagination. I came in this year with a different mindset so it was unfortunate that my expectations were not met.
There were a few stand out artists that I would definitely would love to see more of. The Exposure artists: Lucas Simoes from PATRON/MARSO, Geneieve Gaignard from Shulamit Nazarian and Gigisue representied by the 313 Art Project. Gigisue's work was bold, not daring but gave me pause. I have been aware of Ms. Gaignard's work for a short period of time (during one of my shameless sessions browsing Artsy) . I love that she incorporates herself in her work - to convey a strong message in most cases it is best to deliver the message yourself. The artist[Gaignard] was present but I missed out on a chance to have a meaningful dialogue.
I can never say anything unfavorable about art that requires the audience's participation. Lucas Simoes had patrons in awe and a fit of giggles walking on the concrete floor that was supported by foam. I am not sure what his message was but I just flat out loved it.
That is all for now. Until next time..
If you attended EXPO last year I am sure you were blown away by Sandro Miller’s “American Bikers” portraits. It [last year] was my first time attending EXPO and a year later it is still a pivotal conversational piece (and inspiration). His new piece titled 'My Hair, My Soul, My Freedom' attempts to capture the true essence of African American hair not only missed the mark, but leaves one to wonder why he choose a subject matter that he has no personal experience with.
The work undoubtedly deserves praise - the photographs were well executed and vibrant. One of the key ingredients that is missing is the perspective of the woman themselves - How do they feel about the constraints of having to conform to various hairstyles to appeal to society ? At what cost? I highly doubt Mr. Miller has ever faced the societal scrutiny or financial cost of having to conform his hair to what he describes as "European" standards of beauty. I was turned off by his portrayal of the women's skin color as exactly the same as well as their hair texture - spiced up with neon colors and decorative pieces you would never be the norm.
A stand out character he may be his work always seems to cause a stir whether it be a positive or negative message. By providing a visual of African American hair in one medium he pushes the stereotype that in an attempt to blend in we are hiding a 'unique' or 'interesting' texture that should be celebrated. The obvious and most accepted vision of what African American hair is visualized in the photos but it hardly scratches the surface - it is a shame that Mr. Miller will clump an entire race of women into a one dimensional visual but rather capture the ever changing
I am not sure why Mr. Miller after the success of 'American Bikers' at EXPO 2016 would he want to take up the issue of 'Black Hair'. It is disappointing to see that he did not take the more realistic, accurate, or raw approach as he did with his previous portraits - but instead fell into the mainstream depiction of what African hair. The final product danced along the lines of cartoonish rather than a unique visual approach that would make audiences reconsider their perception. It is not necessary to say woman come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, and the same can be said with hair texture. It is a shame that a woman's identity can be so wrapped up in her hair.
There has been a pattern of me not having much to do on the weekend - I unexpectedly find myself attending art events or lying on the beach. Rough life.
My phone alerted me of an event at DePaul University with Senga Nengudi Saturday afternoon. I admit I was only curious because it was sold out. I immediately headed north and put my name down on the waitlist. I never heard of the artist but I figured it would be influential if so many people were eager to see her.
Her work had a simple theme illustrating the changes of the female body post pregnancy. She illustrated this concept with pantyhose and sand - the elasticity of the material symbolized how the body can expand and contract. Pretty cool concept I thought. However, I was not prepared for was the performance that immediately followed the short dialogue. Two female performers along with a male playing the cello re-enacted one of her pieces called R.S.V.P. I was so taken aback I am shocked I was able to snap this quick photo - I was too enthralled with what was going on I did not want to miss anything.
I am really starting to become more interested in performance art. Senga Nengudi's - Improvisational Gestures is on display at the DePaul Art Museum now until December 10th.
On a whim I decided to visit Louisville for the holiday weekend. With no plans and crappy city weather it was not a hard decision. At 1 PM I decided to go and by 4 PM I was driving in the car. I admit I was a little reluctant but I had nothing to lose. I needed a change of scenery as I was tired of hitting the same spots in the city. Yes, it is large and there are many corners I have not explored. It is a short drive from the city and I have not been to Kentucky since I was small. I had no expectations but all I was hoping for was for more range and new subjects for my photos. The city was quiet and there were hardly any residents walking around. I pushed myself to capture nature and anything else that was out of my usual scope. Pleased with the results? I think so. The color contrast was exceptional and I can definitely say I am obsessed with doors.
I swear I am NOT stalking Ai Wei Wei! Right in the heart of Louisville at the Smart Museum was one of his sculpture series on the front lawn. My friend was persistent in checking them out but I was not that interested (was not aware who created them..yet). It was only after descending the staircase that I saw the description inscribed on the glass wall. I barely digested the description as I was already outside Thank you anonymous donor for allowing the public to enjoy. Everyone jokes that I am Daenerys - see any resemblance?
I did another 'Drive By Exhibition High' - this time in the never a dull moment City of Chicago
The Chicago Culture Center offers a lot of programs but does not do a great job with advertising. I made my way into the gallery. There is not much I can say about this artist is that she is very versatile and all over the map. For an artist who is unsure of what path to take she does make you confident in realizing you do not have to choose - just make art. I made small talk with the gallery security guard and he said that everyone who came in was amazed that all the work was done by the same artist.
Nothing was consistent. There were some similarities in her painting techniques but other than that none of the work seemed to follow any theme or storyline. I did admire her unapologetic approach to taking risk and adding subtle detail. The exhibition hall even had the baseboards covered in a graffiti print.
I think my favorite piece in the whole exhibition is one titled "Listening to Haruki Murakami while looking at the sunset". Other patrons were unimpressed by the piece. At first glance it did look like a simple grid with no forethought. I spent some time observing it and the title alone made me suspicious. It was evident that she put some thought into the color palette and the symmetry - or lack thereof. While all of the squares were perfectly except for the ones at the end. Definitely intentional but not sure why. I am convinced she planned it that way - maybe perhaps the row represents the sun actually setting (the title) and the rows prior to that were just her simply listening to the music. Either way, nothing like an exhibition invoking interesting conversation.
Her exhibition is wrapping up this weekend! Don't miss your chance!
I decided to approach a prominent local blogger to see if my candid approach could also work well in fashion. Allie Barke from Allie's Fashion Alley agreed to test out my methods. We both have expressed admiration for one another's work so it was easy to work together. The great thing about Allie's photographs is that she a natural when it comes to being visually expressive.
While she needed some posed shots for her blog, I did manage to get some great candids by distracting her with light conversation. I think for my first fashion shoot it was a success. You can view her post here at the link below where she gushes about how much she adores using Rent the Runway!
When I first purchased my camera I decided to get the Nikon SB5000 as well. I occasionally shoot events but otherwise I rely solely on natural light for my photos. Last week I attended a The Kickback Series by Miller Lite in Chicago. The lighting was perfect - I managed to take some great shots outside.
Near the end of the evening the inside of the venue became very low lit. I tried to take some photographs of some of the guests dancing. Here were the results:
Even at an ISO level of 12800, the photographs did not turn out. When I take night shots I usually can get away with no speedlight. However, I still had a decent light source that assisted me. In this case, I definitely missed out on a great photo opportunity. So will I start carrying around my speedlight in my purse? Ha, who knows but it is something to think about.
While I was in Atlanta for a wedding I decided to do a 'Drive By Exhibition High'. I have never been to the High Museum so I was eager to cross it off my list. To my surprise, an exhibition starring Andy Warhol himself was taking place.
I must admit I never understood the hype around Andy Warhol. An unpopular opinion? Yes, but I saw him more as a socialite than an artist. Influential? Sure - he introduced Jean-Michael Basquait to the world. His only claim to fame is he found 'Art' in everyday media while simultaneously shattering the archaic definition of 'Art'. Other influential artists hated him since he had no reservations when it came to stealing ideas and using photographs without permission. Mixing and matching photographs together and calling it your own - a process of a genius or something else ?
The exhibition had an exceptional presentation. All of his well known work was on display including the infamous Campbell Soup ans and portraits of Mao Zedong and Marilyn Monroe. I did get chills.
His methods were uncommon but it has become the foundation of digital art. I would not be surprised if his prints were the inspiration behind Adobe Photoshop. My first pieces were made on the computer copied majority of his methods. Lesson learned - you would be surprised by who or what has directly influenced you.
The Murakami exhibit opened this week at the MCA - and it was better than I expected. You may know his work from Kanye West's Graduation era but he has long surpassed those days. His 10 FT silk screen paintings employed over 100 assistants in which he was involved from start to finish. The details were so defined that even the toenails on the characters were different colors. I did not walk away with a clear message of his work nor did it invoke conversation. However, you must admire that with the help of others an artist's work can be limitless.