Bridging the gap between the fine and the less refined

MC

UPDATED Kanye West x Picasso: “808’s and Heartbreaks”/Blue Period Comparison

“Woman With Crossed Arms”

We all have moments in life when things begin to look grim. Most of us, thankfully, find a way to handle these taxing situations. Some people drink, others buy a pet or a new car. There are certain individuals that choose to turn this negative energy into something creative. This can be said of artist such as Kanye West and Picasso. Both men were able to transform their sorrow into art and this shared motivation is what links them. Most specifically in 2008, Kanye West released “808′s & Heartbreak” to mixed reviews. These reviews spawned from West’s use of a tool called “auto-tune” to alter his voice to be more melodic. The album has dominant themes of sadness, heartbreak and vanity. It is grounded on these dynamics that Kanye West’s album can be connected to Picasso’s Blue Period (1901-1904).

The connection exist through emotion. The entire “808′s” album is full of West mourning the loss of his love and recovering from the damage she inflicted as well as the torment of the death of his mother. In regards to Picasso, he was mourning the death of a friend, which is why his color palette changed. So due to the traumatic experiences that had recently occurred in their lives, both artist were changing their palettes. In the case of West he was using darker chords and Auto-Tune instead of more up-tempo tunes. Picasso’s color palette was Cezannian and fauvism inspired, meaning that it was colorful and drastically changed to a palette where the majority of the colors are variations of blue.

During a conversation with NJ-based artist, Luca Molnar, she brought to my attention how these bodies of work were also created out of artist who were forced to create in unknown ways due to their emotion instability which hindered them from creating in their usual manner. For example Kanye West recorded his album in Hawaii, instead of on the mainland as he is accustomed to, because that was the only place he could find peace*.

Luca was also able to connect “Heartless” with Picasso’s “Woman with Crossed Arms”. She mentioned that it was more than the center of both pieces being a woman but rather it is the sentiment that connects them. They both embody a feeling of sadness but “Heartless” is primarily about actual heartbreak and is more animated (literally and figuratively) while “Woman With Crossed Arms” personifies a more general sense of sadness and depression that is underlying in “Heartless”.

(In the video he even literally turns blue. His wardrobe on the onset features a brightly color sweater but by the end of the video his attire changes to a monochromatic palette of silvers and gray. While the women are all depicted in vivid colors)

The connection extends beyond this to how the artist evolved out of this stage. After this 2-3 year blue period, Picasso immediately moves into his rose period where red is the dominant color. Similarly, West on his next album, which was 2010′s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, has music videos that use red as the central color i.e. “Runaway” and “All of the Lights”, has a George Condo album artwork that features a vivid, fauvist inspired red background and also the sound of the album is a deep rouge.

Go listen and see what color you visualize the sound of the album to be? In all, these are both the kings of their respective realm. So next time you hear Kanye’s music, make sure you see it too.

*TANGENT ALERT: If you read the previous post where I correlate Kanye West to my favorite painter, Jean-Michel Basquiat, you will know what I have already established as the connecting threads. Another one is that Kanye found solace in Hawaii. The same can be said about Basquiat. It has been said that Hawaii was the only place where he did not use drugs. Interesante, aye?.

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George Condo x Kanye West

Existence is recognition. Things do not exist until they are observed.”-Jack Kerouac

Image

Many hip-hop fans have seen George Condo’s works on Kanye West’s 2010 release “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”. Together Kanye West and George Condo are branded a new era of pop art for Generation-Y.

Condo’s style could be branded as surrealism or cubism or heavily grounded in the classical tradition but does this all mean that it is something entirely new instead? The human mind is able to process things by using the connections they have already established, in this case it is recognized artistic movements. So even for an art connoisseur who is accustomed to ushering in new waves, the idea of something entirely new is hard to digest because we haven’t developed the artistic enzymes to do so. Therefore I may say that it has elements of this and that and indeed his work may have some already familiar components, but understand George Condo is ushering in a new wave of fine art which is really the less “refined”. (All of which will be saved for a later discussion)

How is George Condo surrealistic? If you look at how Condo uses space in his portraits of his “podular” beings, there is a very jarring contrast between the background and the foreground. This subject, being this very non-human creature, is portrayed in a very human fashion. This allows the viewer to better grasp this entirely new species. All of these creatures possessing extremely exaggerated features including swollen cheeks, extra mouths and very large ears and noses. This all being SUR-real as in above or beyond real. George Condo has observed a new world and a new species in his mind and has brought that thought out into this world. And now it is indeed real to us all too.

The very controversial cover of Kanye West’s album follows along within the realm of Condo’s SURreal work. It was banned by Target for its “suggestive” subject matter. Condo said this in reference to the issue,

The superimposition of people’s perceptions on a cartoon is shocking. What’s happening in their minds should be banned. Not the painting.-George Condo

Trill.

I can understand why Mr. West teamed up with Condo. These two men have made an art of vocalizing, through music and fine art respectively, the treasures in their own vaults. They both share the talent of making what it real to only them in their minds, real to the other 3 billion of us.

But if you ask me, he stole that iconic coral for the “MBDTF” cover from Matisse. They say though that good artist borrow but the best artist steal.

Further Reading (or actually viewing): “Condo Painting” currently streaming on Netflix.


The Resurgence of 80’s Art

Fab 5 Freddy, Shepard Fairey==
NOWNESS Presents the New York Premiere of Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child.==
MoMa, NYC==
Tuesday, April 27th, 2010==
Photo - J.T. White/PatrickMcMullan.com==

I can personally say that my fascination with modern art with an emphasis on 80’s art comes from a more formal, classroom introduction to modern art. As of late though, I have noticed that I am not the only one with an interest in this era of art. This curiosity can especially be found in urban culture.

Ranging from references to Basquiat on the “Watch the Throne” album to Swizz Beats teaming up with Reebok to create a line inspired by Basquiat. You can watch a video of Swizz art shopping below.

Uh, Picasso was alive he woulda made her
That’s right nigga Mona Lisa can’t fade her
I mean Marilyn Monroe, she’s quite nice
But why all the pretty icons always all white?
Put some colored girls in the MoMA

-Jay-Z

(for a more detailed list of Basquiat references, you can check this VERY well down list but complex.com here)

But where did all this come from?! Here’s my theory: The musicians that are now making the music we listen to grew up in the 80’s at the height of street art in NY. So what they are doing now is glorifying their heroes. The same way they recently put 90’s Nick shows back on TV because the kids that watching those shows are now in their 20’s, these musicians are bringing back the influences that raised them.

All of this makes me incredibly happy because it is a great example that the heroes of OUR generation draw from a diverse group for inspiration. They are not these one dimensional figures. It also shows that hip-hop/music are not the only things that come from the street but it also brings us this beautiful art that now in the realm of artistic academia. You can conclude the same thing with hip-hop. Originally music critics thought that the genre of hip-hop was just a phase and wouldn’t last but now these hip-hop pioneers are being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

May this be a trend that continues.

Basquiat/Haring by Shepard Fairey


Video

J. Cole-“Sideline Story”

FINALLY the visuals to my favorite song. As was mentioned in a previous post, you can find an in depth explanation for the lyrics here.

Enjoy!


Why Hip-Hop Needs: N.E.R.D.

So you know Pharrell Williams but not N.E.R.D.? You’re joking. It’s okay though because I’m here to help you out.

N.E.R.D. stands for No one ever really dies. The group is composed of Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley. They got together in 2001 blah blah blah….enough history. Time for the meat of the matter.

SO why does hip-hop need N.E.R.D.? Well if you have to ask then you must’ve not ever heard their music before.

I find them to be the bridge between hip-hop, rock and afro-punk. (yes afro-punk is real, there’s even a festival every year in NYC to celebrate it). Pharrell and Chad are known to most people in the hip-hop realm as the Neptunes. Two of the most respected producers currently active. These guys are essentially production geniuses. So what N.E.R.D. does for them is to provide an alternative outlet that is just THEIR music. It is not music that they are making for other artist but rather it is purely their artistry and the fact that they choose to express themselves in this manner versus any other way, i.e. gangsta rap, funk, soul music, speaks volumes.

Hip-hop needs them because they add diversity to the genre that few people are managing to be as successfully. Certainly they are more successful, sales wise at least, when they produce verses making their own music but its not about monetary success. It’s about self-expression and they are doing it freely and only because it is what they want to do.

Hip-hop is full of artist who are doing things because they believe it will bring them monetary success. And what they are doing may not necessarily be what is truly inside them to do. But in the case of N.E.R.D., I have faith that they are only creating this type of music on their volition. Hip-hop needs more artist like this. People who are doing what they want to do because they want to do it and for that reason alone.

The diversity aspect is also incredibly important because without diversity, hip-hop will no longer be dynamic and simply deflate. We need artist that balance everything out.

It’s that simple.

So if you haven’t listened before, you can check their website here. FYI “Seeing Sounds” is my favorite album of theirs. Cra-zay production.

Talk about a good time. Get excited about your life.


Kanye West x Picasso: 808’s & Heartbreak x Blue Period Comparison

“Woman With Crossed Arms” -Pablo Picasso

UPDATE: Read the updated post here!

 

 

Due to the positive response of previous hip-hop/modern art post, I am continuing with a more in depth comparison.

While trying to precisely connect musician with painter, many things came to mind ranging from Janelle Monae to Cee-Lo Green and finally to Kanye West. Kanye West is a great candidate for artistic comparison because he is more in touch with his spiritual side than many other rappers. And it is the spirit that usually inspires artist. My original plan was to connect his 30-minute “Runaway” film to Picasso’s rose period. This being because both ooze the color red. But Picasso’s rose period was not quite as rosey as I expected. When I then thought of Picasso’s blue period, I immediately knew that this was equivalent to Kanye West’s 2008 “808’s & Heartbreak” album.

Upon listening to the album, I honestly see the images Kanye describes in black-and-white, as if his lost love took away the “color” from his life. It is not as simple as saying that Kanye West feels “blue” on this album thus it’s like Picasso’s blue period. The end. No! Incorrect! It is a bit more complex than that.

It is connected through emotion. The entire “808’s” album is full of Kanye mourning the loss of his love and recovering from the damage she inflicted (she must feel really bad about herself right now) as well as the death of his mother. And in the case of Picasso, he was mourning the death of a friend, which is why his color palette changed. In a way both artist were changing their palettes. In the case of Kanye he was using darker beats and Auto-Tune instead of more up-tempo tunes. Picasso’s color palette was Cezannian and fauvism inspired, meaning that it was colorful to a palette where the majority of the colors are variations of blue.

Is it starting to come together?

My conversation with NJ-based artist, Luca Molnar, brought to my attention how these bodies of work were also created out of artist who were forced to create in unknown ways due to their emotion unstability hindering from creating in their usual manner. For example Kanye West recorded his album in Hawaii because that was the only place he could find peace.

>>>>>>

TANGENT ALERT: If you read the previous post where I correlate Kanye West to my favorite painter, Jean-Michel Basquiat, you will know what I have already established as the connecting threads. Another one is that Kanye found solace in Hawaii. The same can be said about Basquiat. It has been said that Hawaii was the only place where he did not use drugs. Interesante, aye?.

back to our regularly scheduled programming>>>>>

Luca was also able to connect “Heartless” with Picasso’s “Woman with Crossed Arms”. She mentioned that it was more than the center of both pieces being a woman but rather it is the sentiment that connects them. They both embody a feeling of sadness but “Heartless” is primarily about actually heartbreak and is more animated (literally and figuratively) while “Woman With Crossed Arms” personifies a more general sense of sadness and depression that is underlying in “Heartless”

(In the video he even literally turns blue. His wardrobe on the onset features a brightly color sweater but by the end of the video his attire changes to a monochromatic palette of silvers and gray. While the women are all depicted in vivid colors)

It even connects as the artist evolved out of this stage. After this 2-3 year blue period, Picasso immediately moves into his rose period where red is the dominant color. The exact same thing happens to Kanye. His next album was 2010’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” which, as I previously stated, not only has music videos that use red as the central color but the sound of the album is a deep rouge.

Go listen and see what color you visualize the sound of the album to be?

In all, these are both the kings of their respective realm. So next time you hear Kanye’s music, make sure you see it too.


Why Hip-Hop needs: The Cool Kids

This is the first part of the “Why Hip-Hop Needs” Series. This will features elements that hip-hop needs to stay the dynamic genre that it currently is.

So to begin, I’ll start with something that is near and dear to my heart, The Cool Kids.

A brief history: Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks, the former being from Detriot and the latter from Chicago, linked up and released the first album “The Bake Sale” in 2008. Then, due to a contract gone wrong, had to wait until 2011 when they released their second album “When Fish Ride Bicycles” independently. Straight up, these guys are dope.

But getting to the point, why are they important?

Well remember back to the golden age of hip-hop when kids where still skipping school and breakdancing on the subways? With boomboxes listening to Rakim? Well this is the feeling that these guys replicate. Chuck and Mikey are literally like the cool kids in school (pun intended) that would make beats in their basements afterschool and would DJ all the house parties. This is exactly what hip-hop needs right now.

Rappers are starting to get too serious and we, the consumers, need something that doesn’t talk about dealing drugs and fuckin’ bitches (i.e. 90% of rappers from Atlanta). But rather just two young guys having clean fun…well maybe with certain herbal substances.

Whether people don’t want to admit it or don’t release it, these guys were precursors to Odd Future. This is especially true in their spirit of youthfulness. Just some kids having fun (everyone just has different types of fun but I digress).

I appreciate them. In fact I have seen them three times and even met them when I was 17. Check out their “Black Mags” video from back in the day.

Peace and love.