Category Archives: By Morris Shapiro

Csaba Markus, Aesthetic Olympian

Csaba Markus, Park West Gallery Csaba Markus “Veritas” (2006) | Park West Gallery Collection

~Written by Morris Shapiro, Park West Gallery Director~

In the contemporary world of art a battle is currently raging. As the 20th Century clicked over to the 21st, it provided a convenient demarcation point for this struggle, but it has really been ongoing for at least 90 years. The conflict is about the search by artists of our time for the fundamentals of aesthetics which have long ago been “thrown under the bus.”

The word, “aesthetic” is derived from the Greek word, “aesthesis,” which means “perception with feeling,” and in so simple a joining of two phenomena, the entire history of western art criticism has rested. Perception of course deals with the sensorial response to art: what we perceive and experience through our limited senses as we take in what exists before us for contemplation. Feeling, results in what we take from that contemplation and from whatever “information” our senses provide. That is, how the information affects the perspective we bring to the contemplation of an artwork. That perspective is made up of our emotions, our experiences, our education, our dispositions, our passions, our prejudices and the myriad other qualities that define who we are each individually.

All through the storied evolution of aesthetic philosophy two halves have formed the whole of the aesthetic experience. They are the “yin and yang” of art and their measure must each be taken to develop a true analysis of any work of art in any medium. “Form” is the physical body, the manifestation in concrete reality of the work of art before us. In the visual arts (for which we will confine our discussion here) form may include the medium employed, the size or format of the work, the use of line, color, texture, contrast, the composition of the work, or any number of other “physical’ attributes. “Content,” on the other hand, is what the work of art is communicating to us as we experience it during contemplation. All art has something to communicate, even if the communication is about the absence of communication.

In 1917, when French artist Marcel Duchamp created the first “Readymade” by signing with a fictitious name an inverted urinal and titling it Fountain, the true iconoclastic struggle of aesthetic “life and death” began. By proclaiming that something was art, because the artist claimed it to be, the aesthetic experience was transformed into a kind of  artistic narcissism, a constant contextual rumination by art asking itself, “Am I art, or am I not art?” 

For nearly one hundred years now, artists, historians, museums, art educational institutions, galleries, auction houses and collectors have embraced and legitimized these types of artistic creations and conceptualizations. It serves no purpose here to dwell on the embodiment of these “artworks.” We are all familiar with the dirty ashtrays, the sharks in formaldehyde, the crucifixes in urine, the Plexiglas boxes of trash and the thousands of other manifestations of what author Donald Kuspit in his book, The End of Art (2004, Cambridge University Press),  has aptly named, “postart.”

“Post-artworks” have been included in exhibitions with great fanfare and have fetched in the auction and gallery markets dramatically high prices, especially when compared to works by artistic masters of the past. To some extent, these “works” have been derided and ridiculed in the popular press and have caused their fair share of controversy, but essentially they have continued to flourish unimpeded in their own elitist milieu, where they focus on lifting up those things which were once considered banal, meager, ordinary and even repulsive into the highest realms of  “Fine Art.”

Csaba Markus, Park West GalleryCsaba Markus “Dance and Conquest” (2008) | Park West Gallery Collection

The Pendulum
A comprehensive investigation into the history of art ultimately reveals that if only one thing can be counted on, it is that artists (and consequently their creations) will react strongly to the art of their time. Often this reaction will be in the form of pushing back against the grain of the accepted art of the times, i.e. the art that is seen as respected, legitimate, important, and valid. 

Even deeper investigation will often reveal that the polar opposites that drive the pendulum of art history from one side to the other are grounded in the artistic ideals found in form and content and these in turn can be seen as the overarching characteristics of the pendulum’s extreme positions. A good example of this can be found in the distinction between classical art, which is grounded in the principles of purity and adherence to nature’s forms, and romantic art, which is about imagination, myth, and mannerism. Again, this is not the appropriate place for a long discussion of these historical observations, but suffice it to say that the difference between Caravaggio (classical) and El Greco (romantic), is a good example. These artists existed in nearly the same time and yet Caravaggio, by embracing the notion of a kind of painting that was focused on a depiction of true reality (right down to the dirt under the fingernails of the subject), created a new form of art in direct opposition to El Greco’s flamboyant and mystical interpretations of another world that existed beyond the tangible one.

“So what does any of this have to do with Csaba Markus?” you might ask. Well, I have had the good fortune to have many discussions with Csaba about these very subjects. And Csaba is a true student of art history. Just by looking at his art one assumes this. And like every great artist I have met (and the great ones from the past that I have only read about), being well steeped in the history of art, and understanding their place in its context, is of paramount concern to them.

I am fortunate to have a life immersed in art. It surrounds me every day. I research it, buy it, sell it, talk to people about it, and teach others to speak of it. I hear the questions, comments and concerns of collectors, both novice and seasoned. And when I speak of these contemporary issues, of art which causes the viewer to scratch his head and say, “So what?” after contemplating the “postart” that has besieged our world, I get more often than not, the same response: “Please teach me something. Enrich my experience. Enlighten me through the labors of your art. Show me something about life and the world in which I live that I did not know before I experienced your creative spirit. Help me to walk away from the contemplation of your art and feel enhanced.” Sadly, in most cases none of these questions are answered or desires fulfilled. Here it once again appears (after 3,000 years of human artistic consideration): the cry for a true aesthetic experience, “perception with feeling”—and people are indeed crying out for it. They are deprived and starved for it.

Enter Csaba Markus. An aesthetic Olympian, a man whose entire existence is driven to create an art which elevates, amplifies and exhilarates those who encounter it. Csaba, through his art and his complete emersion in its creative processes, is at the forefront of this battle for aesthetic supremacy in an art world which has mostly turned its back on the ideals of beauty.

Csaba knows this. He sees the big picture. He senses that something big is happening now. He understands his place in the history of our time, and he is positioning himself and his art now to be experienced far into the future. He talks to other artists when he is brought together with them through the events sponsored by Park West Gallery. He sees a new way in which art is being brought to the world. A new way in which people who would never have previously had any inclination or disposition to even contemplate experiencing and collecting art, are now engaged and even passionate about the change in their lives brought to them through these experiences. When Csaba speaks of these things his eyes widen, his gestures become broad, his voice booms and he communicates in a bold and vivid manner that runs parallel to his art. A manner that makes him instantly recognizable as a champion, a gladiator for the ideals that formed millennia of masterpieces but are often eschewed and ridiculed today. The quest for beauty: Csaba sees the pendulum beginning to swing back the other way, and he is pulling on it hard.

Stand before a painting by Csaba Markus. At once you know it’s the “real deal.” Before your eyes is a work of art that immediately communicates to the viewer the technical mastery possessed by this artist. Csaba has “chops.” He has studied the techniques of Leonardo, Durer, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt and one hundred other old masters. Likewise, he commands the compositional devices and nuances of the abstract painters and the expressionists. His intention, he has told me, is to create a work that bridges centuries of artistic stylization. And one that is beyond any categorization, any label or generality.

When you look at a painting by Csaba he wants you to bring your own experience to the work. He wants it to be the point of departure for your imagination as your eyes drink in the face of a gorgeous, timeless woman; an airy iconic space full of floating images, symbols and visual touchstones for poetic association; gestures of pure shape and pigment, tonal flourishes, fields of color, ribbons of linear arabesques dancing across the surface. Csaba’s works introduce an artistic world that is fully formed. They present an ideal and harmonic blend of form and content. They are rigorous in their artistic vocabulary and express themselves effortlessly, and yet they are also full of stories to tell, as long as our intuition, spirit and imaginations are willing to listen. To Csaba, the act of creating beauty is once again paramount. To leave the viewer with a sense of wonder and awe that the human imagination can be so potent, that miraculously from nothing but a blank canvas and some pigments, a work of art so evocative and powerful can be born. This is Csaba’s goal. To bring back aesthetic beauty into the art of our times is the reason why he was put on this earth.

Who can say how his work will be viewed in one hundred, two hundred, five hundred years? God willing that there are still people on this planet. And if so, I know that art will still be here. I know that people will still look at a Rembrandt painting and weep. I know that future generations will still be moved by the spiritual purity and sacrifices made by Van Gogh to create his art. I know that people will still attempt to grasp the protean genius of Picasso. I also know (or perhaps believe is more appropriate), that the pendulum will have swung back sometime in our 21st Century. And future historians my scratch their heads and wonder, “What were they thinking?” when they look back in the history books at the remnants of paintings made of spaghetti, sculptures made of old shoes lying in a sled, and “artist shit” in cans (Piero Manzoni). They may very well then set the book down and glance over at their two hundred-year-old Csaba Markus painting hanging on the wall, and be grateful for the artistic crusaders of the early 21st Century who brought back the love of beauty and set humankind and art back on the path of aesthetic glory. 

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Learn more about Csaba Markus at the Park West Gallery Artist Biographies or view selections of the artist’s works from the Park West Gallery Collection.

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Wildlife Master Andrew Bone Paints a “Life-Size” African Elephant

Andrew Bone, Park West Gallery

Andrew Bone continues to astonish. The African conservationist, painter and adventurer has achieved yet another benchmark in his career. He recently painted a “life-size” (54″ x 95″) African elephant on canvas. The painting, which he titled African Majesty creates an unmatched experience while standing before it.

(Click image above to view in detail)

“One truly has the feeling of encountering this majestic animal in the flesh,” commented Park West Gallery Director, Morris Shapiro who assisted the collectors of the painting in July 2010 with their acquisition.

Andrew Bone, Park West Gallery

Artist and conservationist, Andrew Bone (far right) at Park West Gallery with the collectors of his life-size painting of an African Elephant, “African Majesty.”

“Andrew was actually charged by this bull in the wild, and he captured the energy of that dramatic moment so powerfully,” said Shapiro. “When I first encountered it, I was awed by the sheer size of the animal and as I moved before it, his liquid eyes appeared to follow me from side to side. I don’t know if an artist has ever painted a life-size elephant head before, but I doubt it. A special canvas had to be ordered for the painting and Andrew had some remarkable physical challenges in creating the work.”

The artist commented about his work:

“The creation of ‘African Majesty’ was challenging on numerous levels. The size was larger than ever attempted before, the proportions of the animal had to be perfect, and the piece needed character.

I had to make fundamental changes to my studio. Everything went on wheels to get from one end of the painting to another, the brushes got bigger and the canvas had to be hung on a bar in order to move it off the easel when I was not working on it. I mixed enough pigment to last for the 8 months it would take me to complete the piece and began the first rudimentary brush strokes.

Any artist will testify that the most satisfying part of creating a piece is seeing the art finally framed and hung. This was more so in the case of ‘African Majesty.’ The painting was enormous, bold and real – becoming of the most spectacular animal in the world.

In the fall of 2010 Bone will be embarking on one of the most arduous adventures of his life. He will be traversing the entire length of the Zambezi River (1,500 miles) by canoe. The journey, which will originate at the river source in the Congo and end at the Indian Ocean, will take months, but will allow Andrew an unprecedented access to subjects for his paintings. Bone will also be accompanied by a film crew who will capture the adventure for an upcoming National Geographic documentary.

For more information on Andrew Bone’s remarkable life and artwork, visit his website at http://andrewbone.com

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Park West Gallery Artist Interviews: Leslie Lew Part 3

In Part 1 of Park West Gallery Director Morris Shapiro’s interview with renowned artist Leslie Lew, the artist discussed her artwork and thriving career. In Part 2 Lew discussed her background. Following is Part 3 in which she discusses the early years of her artistic career beginning with her time in Chicago where she attended the Art Institute of Chicago…

Morris Shapiro: When you were in Chicago, you became affiliated with a wonderful movement called the “Hairy Who” movement. It’s not a very well-known movement, but I think it was very influential because a lot of the imagery seemed to emerge from culture…from comic books and pulp fiction. You studied the important artists of that period, and you knew some of the important artists from that period.

Leslie Lew: Ray Yoshida was my advisor for the whole time, and Ray was one of the big names in the Hairy Who. He just passed away about six months ago.

MS: And then you moved to New York and were part of the famous East Village movement.

Sensory Evolution Opening. LL: Yes. My being influenced by the Hairy Who in Chicago was a part of that. The Hairy Who was around about the same time as the Pop Art movement…they were just a different offshoot; a little bit wilder, actually. They really would have fit right in with the East Village artists because they were really funky. I was so influenced by Roger Brown and Jim Nutt and the others, that when I went from Chicago to New York, my work fit in perfectly with the East Village movement. It was really cool.

It’s kind of an interesting story, too, the way I got to New York. I was still in graduate school at the Art Institute of Chicago, and I decided I wanted to go to New York. There were a couple of different programs. I applied to the Whitney, but that year they didn’t accept any painters…they decided that year to just accept video artists. But, it turned out there was an offshoot art program called “Semester in New York City” that was funded by the New York Arts Council and affiliated with the Whitney. So, they invited the artists that had applied to the painting program that year. It turned out that I got the rejection letter from the Whitney saying they were doing only video, and the next day I got the letter inviting me to the “Semester in New York” program. So I went. They had the greatest studios…they had an old telephone factory right on the West Side highway and the entire building was studios. And they had major artists come every Friday and critique our work. It turned out to be a great experience.

Leslie Lew and son 1988.MS: And also at this time you were a single mother with a young child?

LL: I wasn’t a mother yet. When I first got to New York and getting into East Village movement and showing, and I met another painter named Jeffery Lew and we got married. He was a popular artist in the 70s and very good friends with Rob Rauschenberg. For a few years it was really fun, but it became difficult when I started getting some notoriety with the East Village, because his day had kind of passed. I was trying to be cool about it, but it was really hard. People would come up to him and say “how does it feel to be Mr. Leslie Lew?” By that time I had given birth to my son, and he just couldn’t handle it, so I became a single mom on my own.

MS: A single mom on your own, as an artist, raising a baby. That has got to be a pretty intense road. I think it probably has a lot to do with the strength that you have now as an artist and some of your imagery. A lot of the very “heroic” nature of some of your imagery probably comes from that period.

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Stay tuned to the Park West Gallery blog for Part 4 of this fascinating interview with Leslie Lew, and review Part 1 and Part 2 here!

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Park West Gallery Artist Interviews: Leslie Lew Part 2

In Part 1 of Park West Gallery Director Morris Shapiro’s interview with renowned artist Leslie Lew, the artist discussed her artwork and thriving career. Following is Part 2 of this fascinating interview in which she discusses her history as an artist…

Morris Shapiro: I know you have a really amazing resume and you have shown in some of the finest galleries in New York. And, you’ve shown next to artists like Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Keith Haring.

Leslie Lew: I knew Andy and I knew Keith.

MS: And you’ve shown side-by-side with them, as well as in some of the most prestigious galleries in New York and elsewhere. The choice to come to Park West is an interesting because I think it says something about your philosophy of art.

LL: As an art student early on, I would visit museums and high-end galleries, but I always had a little bit of a problem with the way they present their art, or even the approach that they take. Often they are very elitist; it’s almost like you are intimidated when you go in a place… you can’t touch anything. And I’ve always felt that art was supposed to be something that would reach everybody, not just a few people.

I think that’s why I am really, really thrilled with Park West. Your approach is to educate, to deliver, to present and have fun with the art, and to include, not exclude, people. I’m noticing as I go through these events and exhibitions with Park West that it’s a different approach, and it’s exactly what I want to do with my work.

My long term plan is to try to reach as many people as I possibly can. And I think a great way to do this is working with Park West. Yeah, my pieces get into museums…at the Guggenheim or some other high-end gallery, and that’s great. But the people that I’m meeting with Park West are from all over the place, all over the world basically.

MS: And with different levels of artistic sophistication.

LL: Exactly. And you know what, art isn’t just for the few. Take Rembrandt…he wanted to make art approachable. They didn’t have TV…art was part of their communication. And I feel that is really important.

MS: Well I think you are a perfect fit for that because you have such a wonderful energy yourself and so much enthusiasm about your work. That’s such a great combination…people just adore you and your work. So many artists have difficulty in really communicating about their work and sharing their personal side because it is just the way they are, but you have such a wonderful, outgoing personality and people are just delighted to meet you.

Let’s talk a little bit about your past, your background. I know that you come from a family of girls. You have four sisters?

LL: Yes, I am the oldest…I have three younger sisters.

MS: And your father was a pretty famous advertising executive, and his name was Leslie also.

LL: That’s right…I’m Leslie Jr., as I always tell everybody. My parents are a little unconventional…they were kind of like old beatniks; they had a spirit about both of them. My mother used to wear a chignon, big earrings, and funky shoes. I used to be embarrassed when I was a kid…I wanted her to look more like the Dick, Jane and Sally mom, you know with the flip haircut, but she didn’t. She had leotards, she was very dramatic. I probably got a little of that from my mom.

And my dad, of course, was an artist in his own right. But when he got married he needed to take the route of supporting his family; that is why he went into advertising. He drove to New York and got a job at J. Walter Thompson. He’s responsible for all of the coolest ads that we grew up with as Baby Boomers.

MS: Can you tell us some of them?

LL: Alka-Seltzer commercials…the Marlboro Man.

“Oh I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” “marshmallow meatball,” you know, that kind of thing. There was one with a newlywed who was cooking for her husband and she was a really bad cook… Dad did that one.

And the Marlboro Man. Dad went down to Kentucky. You know that guy just died recently from smoking. He was a really young guy though; he was only about eighteen at the time, even though he looked a lot older.

MS: And some of the famous breakfast cereals?

LL: Oh yeah. When dad passed away a couple of years ago, I decided to do a dedication to him. I recreated one of the Sugar Smacks boxes that he invented. He did the Smackin’ Brothers, which would be so totally inappropriate today…so “politically incorrect.” But what I did was paint a really big—about 90 by 60 inch—sculpted oil, based on Dad’s ad, and I had an exhibition called “Snap, Crackle, and POP” and I did a big POP. He has influenced me a lot.

In the old day with the ad layouts, they used those great Pantone markers. He had thousands of colors…and it was almost like a watercolor process. He had his own little studio in our house and I used to sit underneath his drawing table. He was really persnickety about his markers, and if they were the least bit worn or dry, he would give them to me. So I would sit there and actually copy my dad’s ads. I still have some of them.

MS:  So you were also drawing at a really early age?

LL: Oh yeah, absolutely.

MS: So then your father kind of packed it in; he kind of just turned his back on the advertising world and took your family to Oregon right? And you guys were living kind of as “bohemians” in Oregon?

LL: Yeah. What happened was that my parents got divorced, but we all ended up following my dad. My dad didn’t want to get divorced, but my mother, I guess she just couldn’t handle it. It was a time in the 50’s where she wanted to be more creative. She needed to “do her own thing.” She didn’t want to be a housewife. Ultimately, she ended up working as a writer for the Chicago Tribune and then later for the Oregonian. Even thought they got divorced, they remained friends. Dad went to Oregon, and I went to Oregon with him. Then my sisters followed. Then, my dad invited my mom to come, so everyone ended up in Portland.

MS: And this is about the time when you decided to become an artist, right? You moved to Chicago and went to The Chicago Institute, the School of Art Institute, which everyone knows is one of the greatest art schools in the world. Some of the work that you do today still has images that originated from your Chicago Institute days, right?

LL: Yes, the first piece that ever was in a museum is one of the etchings that I released through Park West. I had never sent them out…they’ve always been just with me in my studio. But, I love that you guys have great, beautiful etchings like Rembrandt, Goya, and I thought, you know what, I’m going to release these…this is the right place for them now.

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Stay tuned to the Park West Gallery blog for Part 3 of this absorbing interview with Leslie Lew, and review Part 1 here!

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Yaacov Agam and the Mystical Number “9”

Yaacov Agam, Park West Gallery“Infinite Reach” (1985), serigraph in color on reflective mylar, by YAACOV AGAM

By Morris Shapiro,
Director of Park West Gallery

I am often asked about the significance of the number “9” in Yaacov Agam’s art.

Yaacov Agam, as the son of an Orthodox Rabbi, possesses a deep interest in Hebrew mysticism. The study of the most mystical aspect of Hebrew beliefs is called “Kabbala.” Kabbala is millennia old and extremely esoteric, secretive and illusive to grasp. Students of Kabbala spend their entire lifetimes attempting to penetrate the hidden meanings and interpretations of the subject.

In the language of Hebrew (one of the world’s most ancient still in use) every letter of the alphabet has a hidden meaning found in each letter, vowel and accent. Each letter in Hebrew also represents a number. Hebrew, unlike many other languages, never developed separate numerical symbols. The ancient Hebrews also believed that God’s “language” could be perceived in mathematics. When contemplating the perfection of mathematics, formulae, its infiniteness (microcosm/macrocosm) and man’s need for mathematics to create our physical existence, it is easy to see a “metaphysical” aspect to numbers as well. This is the basis for the pursuit and penetration into the mysticism of numbers and mathematics in Kabbala.

The Hebrew word for “life” is “chai.” The word chai is composed of two letters (two numbers) which add up to the number “18.” So in “life” we find a factor of “9.” Now “9” is also a “magical” number. Perhaps you’ve noticed that for each factor of 9: 18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63, 72, 81, 90… when the numbers are added together equal 9 (18…1 + 8 = 9, etc.). This continues: 108, 117, 126, 135, 144, etc.

As Agam considers his works of art to be “visual prayers” or creations which each reflect upon the metaphysical, he chooses to incorporate factors of 9 into each work to “resonate” this purpose. Therefore, in an Agam “prismograph” for example, there are 9 prisms used. The edition size (180) is a factor of 9. The number of colors used in the print is divisible by 9 (I don’t know how many there are, but trust me). If you measure the distance between the prisms, the length, width and depth of the prisms, the sizes of each rectangular space used, the distance from the edge of the frame (white acrylic) to the image, the thickness of the frame, etc. these dimensions will all be divisible by 9 in centimeters. Agam incorporates his Kabbalistic beliefs directly into the physicality (form) of the art he creates.

This is only a single aspect of the layers of meaning in Agams’s work. In particular, I find the things he says about his own work most illuminating. Remember, he created his concept, his “credo,” more than 60 years ago and it has never changed. It has continued to sustain his limitless creativity and to be a template for the creation of his art which has filled the world. There is not (nor has there ever been) anyone like him as an artist in the world history. This is one of many reasons why I personally believe he can arguably be considered the most important artist alive in our time. We are indeed honored to have his art and his enduring relationship to Park West Gallery with us each day.

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A Gavel Falls…is the Pendulum of Art History Swinging Back?

By Morris Shapiro,
Park West Gallery Director

The art and financial worlds are all abuzz about the vigorous buying surge witnessed on the evening of February 3, 2010 at Sotheby’s London, when a bronze sculpture by Swiss modern master Alberto Giacometti fetched the highest price in art auction history. Phillip Hook, the London based Sotheby’s specialist in Impressionist art afterward commented about the supply and demand dynamics involved, “Throughout 2009, we could see plenty of demand for works but not enough supply. This sale confirmed there is more supply and, if anything, demand is even greater.”

After the most significant world-wide economic downturn in more than 70 years, it’s not hard to understand the confusion, consternation and in some cases anger displayed by people wondering how a piece of metal could be worth 65 million pounds (104.3 million dollars). Add to this newest “shocking” price phenomenon the unprecedented prices fetched at the Sotheby’s London auction in September 2008, of the works of British artist Damien Hirst. This sale which contained dead animals encased in formaldehyde filled boxes, cigarette butts arranged on medicine cabinets, dead flies shellacked onto canvasses, and other prime examples of Hirst’s aesthetic ephemera, in total fetched an astonishing $200,700,000, the highest price in history at auction for a single artist (eclipsing even Picasso’s record of 1993).

The same Phillip Hook in his 2009 book, The Ultimate Trophy: How Impressionist Painting Conquered the World (Prestel) perfectly captured another aspect of the public’s mystification of art’s perceived value. “We live in an era, which more than ever before, equates novelty with quality,” he stated. I fear (and fervently hope) that this comment by Mr. Hook, may be no longer the case and that due to the confluence of economic, sociopolitical, and even spiritual realities our shrunken world is experiencing today the big pendulum of art history as evidenced by the Giacometti sculpture may finally be swinging back.

The financial realities everyone the world over is experiencing today have shifted the paradigm. The age of conspicuous consumerism if not over, is today like a cubist painting, offering multiple and fragmented views of reality. To me, it’s no wonder that a work of art can emerge as a symbol of our times, a touchstone for something that still reveals the glory and hope of human creativity. Like a Haiku wherein great wisdom may be discerned in myriad ways by those who read it, the dramatic demonstration of the value of a work of art amidst times of uncertainty and even iconoclastic worldwide financial transformation still bodes well for us all.

Since the days when men first made markings on stone, stepped back and contemplated the mysteries of human consciousness found in the residue of those markings, art has been the beacon, the spearhead of human achievement. Why not now to once again affirm its enduring meaning in our lives and watch the pendulum move back again toward those same aspirations of form and content that created the narrative of art for 60,000 years? Seems like a perfectly fitting and beautiful irony to me.

The Ancient Greeks believed that sculpture was the purest and highest art form. I suspect they (and Giacometti) knew something we didn’t, until now.

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In Memoriam: Roy E. Disney (1930-2009)

“Destino”, a short film by Salvador Dali and Walt Disney, lay unfinished for
nearly 60 years until it was completed by Disney’s nephew Roy. [Courtesy: AFP]

In Memoriam: Roy E. Disney (1930-2009)
Written by Morris Shapiro, Park West Gallery Director

Roy Edward Disney, nephew of Walt Disney, died Wednesday at the age of 79.

I had the pleasure of meeting Roy E. Disney on New Year’s Eve of 2006. Marc Scaglione, the President of Park West Gallery, and I visited his office in Los Angeles and conducted a videotaped interview with him about one of his passions, the Disney-Dali film collaboration, Destino

We spent about four hours with him and had enough time to enjoy his company, observe his environment and talk about some of the things that don’t appear in the 18-minute edited video. We asked him about being a child “hanging out” in the Disney milieu, about some of the people he met there over the years, about his uncle Walt, his father Roy O. Disney and the amazing legacy of his own life’s work. Throughout he was cordial, focused, insightful and engaging. I had the impression that he was also an extremely smart man.

We could tell from observing his office that he loved sailing (he had numerous clipper models on display), good beers (there were some exotic ones in his refrigerator), and all things Irish. He was very proud of the Destino project and listening to the story of how it came about, how he discovered the drawings, paintings and storyboards for the film in the Disney vaults, was enthralling. Without his vision, execution and efforts to secure the rights, the world would have never had the opportunity to see the artwork (which has toured the world in a museum show, called Dali and Film), and experience the film itself, which is a true collaboration of Salvador Dali and Walt Disney – two giants in their respective fields.

I view that day in his office as one of the high-points of my career. And every time I see the interview and the Destino film from now on, I’ll have a deeper appreciation for the man we met, his work and that New Year’s Eve day.

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Park West Gallery Artist Interviews: Leslie Lew

Director of Park West Gallery, Morris Shapiro, recently had a rare opportunity to sit down for a chat with artist Leslie Lew. Following is Part 1 of a compelling interview in which the “Sculpted Oils” artist discusses her artwork and thriving career…

Leslie Lew in her studio. Park West Gallery.

Morris Shapiro: One of the things that strikes me about your work, which I find so fascinating and appealing, is that the notion of Pop Art and American Art is often about taking imagery from our culture and elevating it to art from a context in which it’s not art. You have this very positive idea of finding things in our culture, in our past particularly, that elevate people and bring them wonderful feelings about their past, about growing up in America.

Leslie Lew: I feel that we all have little portions of our lives…maybe when you were a child…that fresh and that wonderful time when you saw life in a totally different way and everything was new and exciting. That’s what I’m dealing with. I’m almost channeling memories. I’m channeling moments that we’ve all had. People see my work and they say, “I remember when I did that…” or, “This brings back my memory of…” And it’s not one experience—there are all these little moments of our lives. I feel I am a recorder of history; I feel I am almost channeling that and grabbing it for posterity. Life has changed so much; life now is so chaotic. We’ve got Home Depot, we’ve got Bed, Bath and Beyond. We don’t have those little stores any longer; they have gone out of existence. So I grab these little moments that we’ve had, because we need to keep them. It’s our American heritage; it’s part of our souls.

MS: Tell us about the three artists who were your primary influences—Peter Max, Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell.

LL: Peter Max, with the vibrant and explosive color. People who like Peter Max tend to gravitate toward my work. He draws from popular American culture, so I can see that. And of course Warhol is the ultimate Pop artist. Like my father, he was in advertising before he was a painter.

MS: So from Peter Max you get the idea of reaching the public with cultural iconography. And Warhol has influenced your Pop style, where you appropriate things from culture. What about Norman Rockwell?

LL: From Norman Rockwell I learned to appeal to the soul. It’s about our whole memories, like macaroni and cheese and meatloaf—comfort food—appealing to those memories that we have deep in our soul. I’m so happy because people get it; they may not know about art, but they love it. And people who are collecting Picasso’s and Rembrandts also get it. I just love that.

Norman Rockwell did a lot of scenes of Americana. You know…the barber shop scene with the little boy getting his hair cut, the army scenes, soldiers, things that were happening in his life. For me, I think I’ve done something similar for my generation—the Baby Boomers. I’ve noticed, though, that even people in their 20s and 30s still seem to be able to relate. And I grab those kinds of ideas. I’ve done a barber shop, and I didn’t put anybody in it, but there are a lot of products. It’s almost about the barber and his shop. He’s got his little coat in there and he’s got his little icons on the shelf and a hairdryer, and the mirror reflects his jacket. Or I do the Animal Crackers because we’ve all had animal crackers.

MS: Tell me about Animal Crackers.

LL: Animal crackers. I think that’s got to be better than Campbell’s soup. It’s the epitome of every childhood. Everybody growing up in America has had animal crackers. My son has had them, you have had them, I’ve had them. I would say most people in the world have. I don’t even know if I thought about that when I first started doing animal cracker paintings. I just loved the animals and I loved the idea of building them up and making them like little live creatures.

MS: And this particular subject is, I think, one of your most popular. I understand you made a painting which is in the Mayo Clinic.

LL: Yes, the very first animal cracker painting that I ever painted was purchased by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. What made me feel really great was that they hung it in the lobby of the children’s ward. When the kids walk in, and these are scared, sick kids, the first thing they get to see is Animal Crackers. And literally, every one of those kids lights up. They are allowed to touch it, and I think in some ways it might be a little bit of a healing thing, too…

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Stay tuned to the Park West Gallery blog for Part 2 of this fascinating interview with Leslie Lew!

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