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?.
Existence is recognition. Things do not exist until they are observed.”-Jack Kerouac
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
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.
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”
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.
I told myself that I would try and stay away from the style aspect of hip-hop but there is something on that needs to be recognized. Also this is the best time to do it since the 15th anniversary of the death of the Notorious B.I.G. (who I can faithfully credit for bringing Versace into hip-hop. Donatella herself even acknowledged this) is coming up this week. The resurgence of Versace in hip-hop. Now I’m not talking about simple, classic Versace suits. NO that would be too easy. I’m talking about rappers wearing those Tony Montana inspired brightly colored, patterned silk shirts. I have also seen more and more musicians wearing the designers sunglasses too.
Now I must admit that when I saw their line with H&M, I was incredibly turned off.
Tacky is not even the word.
But it is truly their classic pieces that have been Versace’s salvation. Let’s look at who did it best.
It all started with Biggie in 1996 in the “Hypnotize” video. Frankly this man made it cool for big guys to rock the brand. An obvious descendent of this trend is Rick Ross. I would post a picture of this within the post but it is too obscene you can see for yourself here or watch the “I’m On One” video here.
(from left to right) Don C, Drake, Tyga
Now this guy is probably my favorite when it comes to who wore it best.
In terms of sunglasses Big Sean definitely wins. I have seen both Tyga and Soulja Boy in recent videos wearing Versace sunglasses. Check the “Rack City” video here.
I like the idea. Versace is a premier Italian fashion house and the fact that these rappers recognize this and are, in a way, paying homage to their Versace wearing forefather is beautiful. Respect.
Don’t call it a comeback.
***complex.com did a great (fuller) history of Versace in hip-hop. Take a look.
So I wanted to try something cool an integrate two worlds that don’t meet enough. Fine art and hip-hop. How you ever thought about what it would be like if your favorite rapper was a painter? It’s ok, I already thought about it for you. Now I am not a modern art expert but I do have a strong general kowledge. Here is it:
Kanye West=Jean-Michel Basquiat
Its an obvious correlation. They are both genius. Both grew up in middle class homes. And both rejected the notion of traditional education. The most striking similarity is how both express their creativity in previously unknown ways i.e. Kanye West’s 808’s and Heartbreak (2009). They are constantly being pressured to be creative and there is sometimes lack of acceptance and certainly the potential for Kanye to collapse under his genius. This is percisely what happened to Basquiat. Truly a gift and a curse.
Frank Ocean=Marcel Duchamp
Its not quite as easy for me to explain this one but Duchamp invented the concept of ready-mades, which is him making ordinary objects in art like an upside down urenal and bicycle wheel. Yes this is real. Frank has essentially done the same thing by taking pure human emotion and making it into art. He has illuminated the idea of being human (humanity) as beautiful.
Nude Deceasing a Staircase
The obvious connection is that both are the godfather’s of their respective realm. Kanye West & Pharrell Williams look to this guy as a mentor and they are each sold millions upon millions of records. While Cezanne of course mentored artist like Picasso & Matisse. Also Cezanne was an impressionist which, by definition, is someone who depicts life as it is. Jay-Z is the same way. His songs are about his life and the struggle of growing up in the projects in Brooklyn and now that he’s rich we get songs like “Niggaz in Paris”. Get it how you live…
The Card Players
to be continued…
Am I the only one that thinks Drake is absolutely everywhere?!
I mean he’s singing the hook on everyone’s songs. He just put out his album not too long ago and now he’s promoting his own artist (shoutout to the Weeknd) and he even his own clothing line.
“OVOXO ’til we overdose”, right?
It almost seems like he come out of nowhere overnight and blow up. But oh contrar my friend. For those of us who recall he actually began releasing music in 2006 and in 2007 he released a track with Trey Songz. But it wasn’t really until 2009 when he released his critically acclaimed EP “So Far Gone” that Drake became a household name.
The real question is though, what made this mixtape so different from all of his other previous releases? Well you know I have an answer. Quite simply it was the ambiance of the music.
The mixtape featured a dark, reflective, pensive and even romantic at times mood that has never been seen before within the realm of hip-hop. “So Far Gone” succeeded for the same reasons that Frank Ocean‘s “NostalgiaULTRA” (one of my personal favorites which I will expand on later and encourage you to download) has. Both mixtapes used very unique samples. Ranging from Santigold to Lykke Li, Kanye West, Jay-Z by way of the Isley Brothers and Peter Bjorn. When you listen to the collection of songs, one feels as if they have tapped into the mind of a young, eager man who is struggling to find his way amongst the lights and not get lost in the glitz.
And yes there are a lot of drug references…amongst the beautiful piano chords of course
The track that really propelled “So Far Gone” forward was “Best I Ever Had” which because the summer, ladies anthem of that year. Women finally got a chance to feel appreciated and not degraded. Gives me a warm, tingly feeling. That song provided a doorway for consumers to listen to the entire EP.
And then the ever obvious contribution that Drake’s “singing/rapping” provided. I can honestly say that I personally blame Drake for pushing the phenomena that is rappers singing…without autotone except he was actually good. What his singing added was a more vulnerable and emotional touch to things.
But his best lyrical performance yet is also here. He raps over Kanye West’s “Say You Will” beat on a track called “Say What’s Real” (a upcoming post will explain why these are his best bars in detail) but in short it is great because it is such an authentic monologue. You can listen here.
And it’s been beautiful for him ever since.
Finally Canada is actually good for something. Oh Canada…