Posted by Ellen

German artist EVOL works with stencils and spray paint on concrete walls, steel electrical cabinets, and plain cardboard boxes to create vast high-rise apartment blocks. For this installation in a Berlin parking garage, EVOL works a cross-beam into his creation as a crushing artistic blow.

Posted by Ellen

More than fifty walls, rooftops, and billboards high above Market Street, visible mostly from the elevated train line in West Philly, bear pictures and snatches of poetry by former graffiti artist Steve Powers; together they make up his "Love Letter" mural project, one of the city's most popular new tourist attractions.

"We share sheets," says the writing on the third-floor sidewall of a trackside rowhouse. "We share defeats," says the writing at the end of the block.

The message on the back wall of a warehouse is spelled out in what appear to be refrigerator-magnet letters: "If you were here, I'd be home."

Power says his style grew out of a trip to Northern Ireland, where the political murals on the walls of Belfast struck him as "powerful for all the wrong reasons." In his Love Letter murals, he says he's trying to retain the power but "use it in a really good way."



Posted by Ellen

German painter Gesine Marwedel offers her services for people who want to look especially splendid for a special event.

Posted by Ellen

Atlanta artist Brian Dettmer takes scissors to old books–also scalpels and tweezers and other surgical instruments–to reveal a sort of alternate reality deep inside. Nothing in the book is altered, he says; nothing is relocated or added. He just cuts out the words and pictures and stuff that are in the way of the words and pictures and stuff he wants the world to see.

Dettmer especially likes to slice up volumes of old encyclopedias or illustrated dictionaries, works with numerous and varied illustrations. "The book's intended function has decreased," he says; old books are "still linear in a non-linear world." By twisting the spine and cutting the pages, he exposes cast-off words and pictures to new kinds of appreciation.

Posted by Ellen

Ten years ago, an exhibition of work by the Colombian sculptor and painter Fernando Botero toured Europe, including a stop in the courtyard of the Cathedrale di Milano, as shown here. Next fall, a Botero exhibit will visit Bilbao, Spain, but the photo below taken in Bilbao last week features a sculpture that resembles the work of Botero in roundness alone.

Posted by Ellen

Well, I didn't do a very good job a couple days ago when I posted a Good Morning about a Hans Christian Andersen paper cutting. I wrote that the cutting "was associated with" Andersen, using fudge words that I hoped would hide my ignorance: Did Andersen actually own the cutting? Did he commission it? Or cut it himself? Or was it simply inspired by Andersen's fairy tales, associated with him thematically rather than personally?

As y'all often point out to me, there's a lot I don't know about most of what I post, but my ignorance on this one is especially egregious. All it would have taken to learn the whole story was a single, obvious google click. Yes, Hans Christian Andersen made the paper cutting himself; more than a thousand of his cuttings survive to this day. They are the subject of at least two books, which have been translated into umpteen languages. They have been collected and exhibited all over the world. Upon the bicentennial of his birth in 2005, Denmark issued a commemorative postage stamp featuring one of Andersen's paper cuttings: this one.

This guy is a pierrot, a harlequin sort of character who makes an appearance in numerous Andersen tales and paper cuttings. He's loud and he's boisterous, often portrayed as kicking or dancing, and, as here, singing or yelling.

This particular pierrot is burdened down; what's on the tray balanced atop his head is apparently so heavy he's reduced to a froglike crouch. The objects on the tray all represent facets of Andersen's personal life story: his birthplace in Odense, the grammar school he attended, the fairy-tale motif of a windmill man,  the tower of St. Canute's Church in Odense, and an ugly duckling transformed into a swan.

Andersen made many of his cuttings for the children to whom he told his tales; he apparently kep himself busy with his scissors while he was telling the stories, and it's been suggested that the cutwork was a way of entertaining himself while he retold tales that children requested over and over again.

He also made many cuttings, some of them extremely intricate, as hostess gifts for the families with whom he visited or stayed. He had been born a poor boy, and though he died fabulously wealthy, he was always unsure of his social status: eager to socialize with the high and mighty but careful to express his gratitude with tangible, fanciful gifts.

Posted by Ellen

One of about a dozen murals painted in 1938 by Joseph Hirsch to decorate the basement walls of a long-since-abandoned building on South Street in Philadelphia, this one is titled "A Mechanical Engineering Problem." I can't say I know for certain what the joke is here, though the fact that the art had been commissioned by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (ACWA), who owned the building and used it for an office and social center, would have to be a major clue. My guess is that the mustachioed tailors portrayed here were not union workers and were not particularly skilled suitmakers, either; perhaps the point is that only a chump would order a custom-tailored suit from guys like these instead of buying a ready-made, union-made coat and trousers.

Here is another take on the same theme:

In this image, the chump is getting an ill-fitting suit not because it's off-the-shelf and union-made but because the slimeball salesmen can't or won't be bothered to fit him properly. The superiority of union needlework–which the establishment advertises prominently–is or ought to be a selling point among highfalutin haberdashers.

Whatever the punch line, the ACWA was happy with the murals and rehired Hirsch a couple of years later to do a much larger and more formal work for the wall of their auditorium upstairs: a mural 11 feet high and 65 feet long–the largest the entire city at the time–which traced the early history of labor unions in the United States. It was later removed from the building and installed in the lobby of the Sidney Hillman Apartments a few blocks away.

Sidney Hillman, who founded the ACWA, had no personal association with Philadelphia; he was born in Lithuania, and after being imprisoned for labor agitation in Poland in the early years of the twentieth century, he settled in Chicago, where he organized several powerful unions and steered the American labor movement toward the Democratic Party in general and Franklin Roosevelt in particular. But his ACWA represented about 25,000 Philadelphians in the 1930s, when locals from around the city got together to buy the building at 2101 South Street, which became known as the Amalgamated Center. There were offices upstairs, an auditorium and meeting rooms on the main floor, and a swimming pool, gym, and social hall in the basement.

The building was already set up for pretty much these same functions and had been since before 1900, when wealthy merchant John Wanamaker financed its construction for the Bethany Brotherhood, a men's fellowship and social lodge from nearby Bethany Presbyterian Church. During World War I, the Brotherhood turned over the building for housing and recrational use by soldiers and sailors on leave; more than 8,000 servicemen swam, played, and partied there in 1917 and 1918, with Wanamaker picking up the tab for operating costs.

The Amalgamated unions bought it in 1934 and remodeled and expanded it, eventually cladding many walls in marble; the ACWA and a series of affiliated and successor unions occupied the building until 1984, when declining membership led to its sale as office space for Graduate Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

In recent years, it has sat empty. But this week, the basement and much of the first floor of the old Amalgamated Center reopened to something like its original function: once again, the place is a gym, this time operated by a private company, City Fitness. Old Sidney Hillman would not have approved of how the renovation work was undertaken; a couple of weeks before the reopening, there were pickets in front of the building, in response to a subcontractor's use of non-union labor.

Hirsch's murals in the basement will also meet an inglorious fate (as if the graffiti wasn't enough). They are theoretically protected by the building's inclusion on the National Registry of Historic Places, but what that means in practice is that City Fitness will soon be hiding most of them, covering them over with mirrors for the exercise rooms.

Meanwhile, for a brief moment in a new century, Sidney Hillman, "The Guide and Spirit of Amalgamated C.W.," is once again flying free, even if he does have a heart inked on his bicep with the name Carmine inside:

Posted by Ellen

Part of "Fox Games" (1989), a sprawling, life-sized installation at the Denver Art Museum by Sandy Skoglund.

Posted by Ellen

The bronze leg of the sculpted woman here appears to have graffiti on it. The bronze head of the man appears to have a seagull on it.

The people appear poised to run into the surf near the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Posted by Ellen

He is "Le Grand Van Gogh," cast in bronze by sculptor Bruno Catalano.