Archive for the 'Art/Design' Category

Blue Sky, Pixar & More Artists Paint for a Cause

What happens when you make a documentary film and just happen to work at one of the top animation studios in the world? If you’re smart, you make friends with the artists and they multiply your creativity. If you’re smarter, you ask them to bring their friends from around the world with them. And that’s just what happened for Brownstones to Red Dirt, the thought provoking film about kids in Brooklyn housing projects paired with Sierra Leonean pen pals orphaned by civil war.

Artists from Blue Sky Studios and beyond (Pixar, ILM, Valve, 2K Games, CTW, more) have provided hand-drawn artwork on postcards as a lovely counterpoint to the very real letters exchanged by the kids in the film. So many ways to evoke pen-pals, whimsy, struggle, thoughtfulness, and much more. Soon there will be 150 unique pieces. And starting March 6 you’ll be able to buy them.

Proceeds go to construct schools and improve education in Sierra Leone. Buy a postcard and help make it happen! Update: the auction is live

Some favorites (click for details):

Find more on the Brownstones to Red Dirt Art Auction blog and see a another fabulous art endeavor at Blue Sky Studios Challenge.

Chelsea Art Inspires


Whenever we plot a course through Chelsea galleries, we plan to hit some major shows but it’s always the other things we stumble into that make the trip worth it. This time we were of course aiming for Edward Burtynsky’s Oil, but unexpected bits (big and small) made the day.

Take, for example, New York Then and Now (above), a fabulously varied group show that captures the city along so many dimensions. Susan Malloy’s Visions of New York (in the same space) provided an understated refrain.

High Altitude. Michael Najjar’s mountain scenes might look like typical nature photographs, but they’re actually fully synthetic charts of stock market data. This one shows the Dow from 1980 to 2009. Note the precipitous drop at right. The kind of cliffs we can all relate to falling off, then.


Picture of Fate. Murakami and his crew are perennial favorites in these parts (the retrospective at BAM last year was stunning) so turning a corner to see a piece so distinctively his — especially where you don’t expect it — is a treat. And so it was.


Three Ways of Looking at the Earth. Having traveled out to Storm King to see Maya Lin’s massive outdoor work Bodies of Water a few months back, seeing her new indoor project was a lovely counterpoint.


Monochrome Age. Gorgeous or gaudy, Anselm Reyle’s sparkling latticeworks turn every head that happens in to the Gagosian.


Flowers For America. Stéphane Calais’ show was a bit hit and miss, but I was fascinated by these blurred ink blot paintings that overlay faces at once menacing and beautiful.


Quick minds among us remembered Tesla Motors has a home in Chelsea. It was our duty, then, to gawk at the EP2, Tesla’s second electric car prototype (sadly decommissioned).


Night and rain fell, providing the perfect cover for an intimate dinner at sake drenched Izakaya Ten (closing time 3am).


So it’s been nearly one year since our last Chelsea journey. Too long. And now that gallery season is starting up again, let’s hope we can break the trend.

Pixar Concepts: Good Dog, Bad Dog

Love this concept art from Pixar’s fabulous Up. And there’s more where those came from. Heck, MoMA had a whole exhibit of Pixar concepts.

Which begs the question: why don’t other studios put their formative art on display? They certainly have work worth sharing, but it typically trickles out through less than official channels. (Jake Parker has some great stuff from Horton Hears A Who, for example.) Perhaps that says something about the origins of each studio. Pixar, after all, was started by artists, while most of the others were started by suits or engineers. That’s not good or bad, it’s just different. And it’s interesting to see how the genesis of a studio can impact how they work, even so many years later.

Find more Pixar concepts at Sanders Art Studio and did you know the next their next three flicks will be sequels? I’d be worried but their only sequel to date (Toy Story 2) is their best film yet.

We last wrote about Pixar in Pixar Models Ratatouille

Update: Don’t miss the gorgeous Up color scripts. I’ve got some from The Incredibles in my office, but these beat ’em!

Down, Out, and Animated


Late last year, just after Hank Paulson gave his fireside chat on the implosion of the world economy, my wife began the search for a new job. For us, then, the continually gruesome economic news has carried something of a personal tone. It’s been a stressful few months to say the least.

So, it’s with great pleasure that I’m able to emerge from the financial fallout bunker to report that Q has not only found a job, but a fabulous one. In early March, she’ll will start work in the research & development division of Blue Sky — a AAA animation studio just north of NYC. They’re the folks who brought us gorgeous feature films like Ice Age and Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!

But my heart warms most to two of their bit players: Scrat and Bunny. Featured in enigmatic shorts full of spastic action in the best Tex Avery tradition, Scrat is lovable animated lunacy at its purest. You’ll find him in or around nearly every Blue Sky feature. Bunny, on the other hand, has only made one appearance. But that appearance, in a classic Tom Waits backed short, was enough to win Blue Sky an Academy Award. It’s a bittersweet tale that’s stuck with me since the film’s debut in 1998. Saying more would ruin it, but suffice to say missing Bunny is missing out.

What a relief and what an exciting new adventure. For Q, it’s a dream come true. Plus, I’ve been trying to finagle a visit to Blue Sky for some time, so here’s hoping my foot’s a little more firmly in the door now! Many thanks to Adam Christensen and Jake Parker for getting Q’s resume in front of the right people — that was tremendous.

Find more Scrat at Blue Sky Shorts. And see Bunny in her entirety at Yahoo! Movies.

Art Inspiration in Chelsea


Whenever I go to Chelsea, I come away inspired. But absence makes the heart grow fonder and it’s been way too long. Then again, gallery season just started, so it’s a perfect time to reacquaint. And boy did this season start well. Just have a look at Calma up above. His Novo Mundo show at the Jonathan Levine is jaw dropping. Here are a few more December shows that remind me why I love Chelsea:

Zaha Hadid’s installations at 169 10th Ave and Sonnabend (respectively):



The Art of Babar at Mary Ryan ignites memories of the fabulous space elephants of childhood:


Peter Callesen’s “Folded Thoughts” paper sculptures:


Shag’s underwater room as part of his Voyeur show:


Perfect Strangers provides these “dare not go in” freakazoid human-headed beasts:


Hope to hit Chelsea a lot more often in the new year. Art inspiration can’t wait another 300 days (and neither can Billy’s). See you in 2009!

Bye Banksy, Hello Kehinde

You know it’s gallery season in New York when the parade of great shows just doesn’t stop. Banksy’s West Village takeover ends today, and Kehinde Wiley’s Soho invasion starts up tomorrow. Too good.

It’s double subversion. Where Banksy juxtaposes pet store and meat shop, highlighting the modern disconnect between our foods and their source (“mechanically retrieved meats”), Kehinde juxtaposes famous portraits and the urban everyman — begging the question: “Who defines heroism?” Both hijack long running cultural narratives to great effect.

And Kehinde’s new show Down threatens to go harder than usual, providing what looks like a direct rebuttal to negative views of young black men in American society, confronting urban crime through a lens of art history. I’m on it.

For more on Down, visit Deitch Galleries. Wiley’s work also appeared recently at the Harlem Studio Museum with the gorgeous, thoughtful The World Stage: Africa, Lagos ~ Dakar. And you never know where Banksy will pop up next.

wiley work via deitch; banksy via me

We Are 8-Bit

The fourth year of I Am 8-Bit opens tonight in LA — the ever-creative art show featuring videogames re-imagined by artists who grew up with them (or wish they did). Past years have had a broad spectrum from cutesy to badass to rude. (Could anyone who’s played Dig Dug not have seen this coming?) Not everything hits a home run, but that’s what makes the whole thing fun.

Nearly forgotten, I love seeing the most memorable bits of games I grew up with carried forward to become part of pop culture once again, in art, music, clothes, Honda ads. It’s become part of our DNA. Still, you gotta miss the arcades we used to live in. There’s something about those dark rooms punctuated by luminous screens mapped onto mesmerized player faces that home games will never quite duplicate. (The pages of JoyStik capture it well.)

Back then, it seemed like every week brought a new game: ones that felt flawless (the neon vector spikes of Theurer’s Tempest) and others hopelessly broken (days lost misjudging wall heights in Zaxxon). Remember when the visceral feel when Daytona USA first took hold? You never forget your first time. (Maybe that’s why I like that Dig Dug piece so much, eh?)

ia8b amplifies those memories; it’s made me an addict. (I still sport my pixelated excitebike shirt from the first show in 2005.) But I’ve never seen it in person. Until then, us New Yorkers will have to settle for late nights of classic gaming at the fabulous Barcade Brooklyn. I feel a river crossing coming on.

i am 8-bit 2k8 runs through September 7. Catch up on past shows on flickr. For more on 8-bit culture, see Past Prefect and Blip!

images via iam8bit and barcade

South African Kawaii

Those who know us know we search out cute. Not that saccharine sweet Barbie + unicorns cute, but the kind of cute that’s got style. (Like, say, Meomi’s fabulous Octonauts.) And, honestly, the Japanese pretty much have that style on lock. They call it kawaii.

So imagine our surprise when, in a sketchy part of Cape Town called Woodstock, we found an art colony. And in that art colony, we stumbled into quite the cache of kawaii — cute culture African style. Meet Mü & Me.

Run by a two-woman team, the store is an unassuming space in a former biscuit mill. The inside, though, is bursting with personality — everything from t-shirts to postcards to wrapping paper to stickers to notebooks, each adorned with people and animals that mix just the right amount of cute and thoughtfulness. But what I love most about the characters is how representative they are of the many ethnicities that make South Africa so special. Mü is a colorful bird and Me is, well, you! Lovely stuff. We bought tons.

See more of our visit to Mü & Me and Woodstock on Flickr and visit the mothership yourself at

Hanoi’s Hidden Graffiti

Some have argued that the street art scene in Vietnam is lacking — consisting largely of half-drawn scrawls and stenciled phone numbers promising everything from backyard bike repair to the hair cut of your dreams (for example). But for those who luck into it, there’s at least one place where all that changes.

Hidden in Hanoi’s super narrow back alleys is a special spot that features some beautiful work, flanked by great street food, homes packed on top of one another, and a truly lovely art gallery. Have a look.

I don’t know the artists (do you? drop a comment) and I make no claim they’re all Vietnamese, but it is nice to see this level of artistic expression on the streets of a beautiful country that has suffered so much. One might imagine that the communist rulers would frown on this combination of lawbreaking and artistic expression, particularly in the capital city. My only thought there is that artists stick together and protect each other. Hence the proximity to Mai Gallery.

I’ll have more on Mai’s and the whole gallery scene in Hanoi soon (suffice to say the best galleries there rival Chelsea’s). The city is booming in ways that it wasn’t just 5 years ago (iPhones are everywhere, people seem happier) but there’s a long way to go (the jobless rate remains high). Still, if the emerging art scene is anything to go by, Hanoi’s future is bright indeed.

See more shots from my visit to Hanoi’s graffiti row on flickr. Thanks to NYT for the pointer and to Jake for the conversation.

Update: Lunar, one of the artists involved, emailed more details on the project:

we were in hanoi in 2007 thanks to hope box project organized by dutch artist rienke enghardt. the artists who participated on the wall across mai gallery (there was works of hope box artists exhibited in it at the same time) were: angel (serbia), lunar (croatia), zorrox and few of his friends (hanoi), the london police (amsterdam) and def p (amsterdam). this is the wall with light yellow background starting with tigers and ending with london police lad characters. on the left site is unfinished piece by angel and me and i also spotted a piece from year earlier, i think it’s a guy from germany who writes zooloo if i’m not mistaken.

See more of Lunar’s work at

First Person Art

This week had us gawking at art and photography that transports — to places magical, funny, troubling.

First Person Soccer – super visceral ad by Guy Ritchie (Mr. Madonna, Lock Stock) makes you the soccer star

First Person Parkour – graphically beautiful game puts you in the head (and in control) of a free running master (find out how it works at Edge)

First/Third Splitscreen – Radiohead goes activist with a video that thoughtfully compares a kid’s life in the first and third world. Kudos to MTV Exit

Subway Culture Jam – mystery editing of NYC subway ads results in fall down hilarity

Massive Moving Wall – Beijing’s GreenPix gets in your face with is a huge, gorgeous media wall that has zero carbon footprint

Where the Mekong Die – Suthep Kritsanavarin captures jaw dropping scenery and puts you in the shoes of fishermen along the Mekong in Thailand

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