Artist Spotlight: Rachel Whiteread

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

House, by: Rachel Whiteread

Nameless Library Holocaust Memorial, by: Rachel Whiteread

When Michelangelo sculpted David, it can be safely assumed that he gave considerable thought to the physical characteristics of his masterpiece, but as it turns out, not all sculptors focus on the object of their work.

At first, this sounds like an artistic paradox but works created by Rachel Whiteread represent how the artist can make a powerful statement by focusing on the negative space surrounding an object or the emptiness that lies within.

Born in 1963, in London Whiteread was raised by an artist mother and a teacher father. Her mother’s work and later death had an enormous impact on her. She creates sculptures by filling empty spaces inside objects or by recreating the original form through casts. The minimalistic and stark nature of her work is meant to inspire contemplation and meditation.

This exploration of space to evoke thought can be seen perfectly in her, “Nameless Library” sculpture. It is an impenetrable library, turned inward. The work was created for the Holocaust Memorial in Vienna to commemorate Austrian Jews who died during WWII. The stark nature of this work, steeped in symbolic and literal emptiness.

While “Nameless Library” focused on empty space within an object, her most well known work titled, “House” focused on the space surrounding it. Whiteread filled a condemned home in London’s East End with concrete. The home was demolished later that year as her work stood, a monument to the destroyed building. This created a powerful statement about London’s management of the poorest neighborhoods. It was for this work that she received the Turner Prize, United Kingdom’s highest artistic honor.

Regarded by many as England’s most influential contemporary artist, Whiteread alters the audiences perception of each objects she creates. The context of filling or recreating the empty spaces gives them another meaning and in this achievement is where her true genius lies.

She is not a sculptor molding an object, she an artist with the power to mold thoughts with her craft.

Arts & Events: Sylvie Fluery at Salon 94

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

Sophisticated Boom Boom, by: Sylvie Fluery

Gold plated porcelain tire, by: Sylvie Fluery

For the first time in over ten years, prolific Post Appropriationist Swedish artist, Sylvie Fluery is showing an introspective of her work along with a new collection, titled “It Might as Well Rain Until September” at Salon 94 in the Bowery, from March 4 – April 28.

Fluery is best known for installations and mixed media works that reflect on the consumerism of Western culture and feminist interpretations of works painted by white male artists. The new series of paintings titled, “Go Bust” part of the upcoming Salon 94 exhibition, feature hard horizontal and cubic shapes with soft ovals and feminine openings painted into them.

Working within the context of male works while transforming them is not a feminist protest protest for her, as much as it is a vision of other artists works in a different context.

The same can be said for her well-known works that critique commercialism, materialism and the fetishism of feminine fashions and beauty, the best of which will be featured at the exhibition. Some of the most interesting works are the candy pink neon signs that shout ad taglines like, “Be Amazing” and “Moisturizing is the Answer,” bathing the room in a pink glow.

While she currently lives in Geneva, where she was born in 1961 Fluery had a brief love affair with New York in the early eighties. Like many young artists before her, she took in New York’s art and club scene. She returned to Geneva a few years later to become one of the most respected figures in Geneva’s artistic underground.

Some artists come to New York to find themselves, for Fluery it seems the opposite was true as she returns a key figure in the European contemporary arts.

For more information about the exhibition visit:

Salon 94
243 Bowery Street
New York, NY

March 4 – April 28, 2013

Arts & Events: Sound Art Pioneer Christian Marclay at Cantor Arts Center


By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

Before B-Boys and hip-hop virtuosos from the Bronx used the turntable to revolutionize music, as we know it, Christian Marclay began experimenting with sound collages on the turntables and pioneered sound art as an artistic genre.

The Stanford University Cantor Center for the Arts is now showing Marclay’s acclaimed, “Video Quartet” sound and video collage. Four screens feature a video and sound montage of various sounds made by icons like Marie Callas, Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe and others.

Born in San Rafael California to a Swiss father and American mother, Marclay invented sound collages with the help of turntables and musical instruments in the 1970’s. Although he developed his style independently from hip-hop’s early legends, the cut and paste technique he used to create multi-sensory art experiences is similar.

In 2011 he won a Golden Lion award, the Venice Film Festivals highest honor for his revolutionary 24-hour video collage, The Clock. “The Clock” explored the concept of time as an invisible force that controls our daily lives and of time as a relative concept.

Marclya’s work broke barriers in what was considered art by the establishment, much in the same way hip-hop broke barriers in music. Like two scientists working in separate corners of the globe on the same hypothesis and coming to the same conclusion.

For more information about the exhibition visit:

Stanford University Cantor Arts Center

Showing now through February 10.
Wednesday – Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm
Thursday until 8 pm.

Arts & Events: 49ers Tight End Vernon Davis Opens 85 Gallery


Self portrait, oil on canvas by: Vernon Davis


Vernon Davis helping open the 85 Gallery in Santana Row, San Jose, Calif.

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

Most professional football players don’t go around opening art galleries and funding arts scholarships but then again, most professional NFL players, aren’t Vernon Davis. A painter in his free time, the 49ers tight end recently opened the new 85 Gallery on the glitzy Santana Row strip of San Jose, Calif.

The 85 Gallery is not just a vanity piece for Davis, although it is named after Davis’ 85 jersey number and heavily features his works. Among the more established names on display, like glass artist Kevin Chong and jazz painter Bruni Sablan, the mixed media sculptures of Nyijale (pronounced Nigel) Cummings –- the newest recipient of the Vernon Davis Scholarship for the Arts — stood out most.

A high school student from gritty East Palo Alto, Cummings faced a lot of criticism from friends and family about a future in art, much like Davis did himself.

“I come from a family where all my relatives played football,” Cummings was quoted saying in the Metro. “When I started doing art, it was a new thing, and I was even doubting myself about doing it…When I won the scholarship, everyone was like, ‘Whoa, you can actually do something now.'”

Davis said that growing up he was made fun of for his love of art and painting. He founded the Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts to help underprivileged children learn about careers in arts. Sales from the 85 Gallery will benefit the foundation and help fund Vernon Davis art scholarship.

For a man playing arguably the most macho sport in the country, something has to be said for a certain kind of courage it took for Davis to continue to stand by his passion for art. Both the gallery and the scholarship foundation are a testament to this commitment and should serve as an example for all aspiring athlete-artists.

85 Gallery
377 Santana Row, Suite 1180
San Jose, CA 95128

Weekdays: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Weekends: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Artist Spotlight: Mildred Howard


In the Line of Fire by: Mildred Howard

Mildred1_6639 title

6639 by:Mildred Howard

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

The enslavement and systematic murder of African Americans doesn’t get nearly as much attention from the mainstream art world as many other human rights atrocities, such as the Hebrew Holocaust. Mildred Howard’s art throws a spotlight on this issue by viewing it through a historical, international and at times personal perspective.

After hosting shows in Berlin, Cairo, London and New York most artists would settle in one of these international hubs for a life artistic glitz and glamor. A Berkley native, mixed media and landscape artist, Howard has done the complete opposite by becoming one of the most dedicated leaders of the San Francisco Bay Area arts scene.

On her daily walk to Berkley High School, some of Howard’s fondest memories come from smelling the surrounding gardens. As Executive Director of Alice Water’s Edible Schoolyard project, Howard seeks to help local teenagers and kids learn how to garden and stay out of trouble in the process.

The project was founded by local food movement legend, Chef Alice Waters. Kids are taught gardening and about how food affects their communities and the environment. It was Waters herself who tapped Howard for the Executive Director role, for her continual work as a spacial artist and leadership of the Oakland Exploratorium museum.

Her body of work reflects her beliefs in things growing from one another and becoming organically intertwined. Her famous glass bottle house works came to her in a dream and by no accident resemble plantation slave quarters. One her most well known glass houses, the blue bottle house was inspired by the death of her son.

She heard of a young boy who grew up in a home surrounded by glass bottles coming out of the ground. He thought that the bottle grew from the soil, like plants because he did not know enough about gardening. One day she awoke and knew that all she needed glass bottles to build these sheds.

Her work, In the Line of Fire, illustrates the face of a young African American WWII G.I. who went on to fight for American freedoms that he would never have himself. Other powerful themes included a room full of thousands of eggs to symbolize the lives lost in The Middle Passage.

Going from exploring some of the darkest chapters in human history to teaching and inspiring new generations, it seems that Howard’s body of work continues to come full circle.

Artist Spotlight: Annie Leibovitz Documentary

Annie Gargoyle
Annie Leibovitz on Chrysler building gargoyle, by: John Loengard

Annie RollingStone Cover
Rolling Stone magazine cover, John Lennon and Yoko Ono by: Annie Leibovitz

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

Annie Leibovitz. There’s no introduction needed when you’re talking about one of the most prolific photographers of our time. Her nude photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, taken just hours before Lennon was assassinated captured not just the tenderness of their relationship but an entire era.

The “Life Through A Lens” documentary is an introspective not about a famous photographer but the simple actions of a woman that lead to her becoming who she was meant to be.

Whether it’s shooting George Clooney on the shores of Lake Como for Vogue or documenting war in Rwanda, Leibovitz is a rare artist whose style is both fluid and distinct.

From her beginnings living in a San Francisco apartment so small her room was the closet, to single handedly creating imagery that’s become synonymous with Vanity Fair. Leibovitz is a rare breed of artist who can get anything she wants and do work she is truly passionate about.

“I would like to say I’m a photographer and sometimes my work is this and sometimes it’s something else,” said Leibovitz in the film, referring to what she perceives as a lack of a specific style. “I like to keep recording to see what life is… a photographers life is just a life working through a lens.”

As a young photographer, she drove to the Rolling Stone offices with a bag of snapshots and was hired on the spot. Eventually becoming the first Chief Photographer for the publication. Rolling Stone gave her the creative license to develop her signature style. At the time, other publications focused more on grand moments. Leibovitz’s work focused on small elements that gave her work humanity and life.

Lennon himself said that she captured the dynamic of his and Yoko’s relationship, “perfectly.” She came to the shoot with Lennon with no preconceived notions or poses, shooting the couple as they were.

“I never liked to presume anything about a person until I got there,” said Leibovitz. “When you think something will be nothing, it will be most likely something.”

She’s brought the same honestly to recording even her personal relationships. When her friend (and rumored one-time lover) writer and political activist, Susan Sontag was dying, Leibovitz photographed her death and final moments.

Perhaps this is why even her more commercial work with Vanity Fair, is still distinctly her own. The pitfall of success in art, is usually the fear of it loosing the artists original intent.

When she was began photographing celebrities for Vanity Fair, Leibovitz stayed true to her individual vision. The photograph of a nude, pregnant Demi Moore was not only beautiful and provocative but statement about motherhood in our society.

For the true Leibovitz follower, a true exploration of her work could take months but watching “Life Through A Lens” provides the perfect glimpse into the mind of a creative genius.

To watch “Life Through A Lens” click here.

Arts & Events: Brooklyn Visits Heath


Photo by: Health Ceramics, Bud Vase Set, Seasonal Collection

By: Aleksandra Bulatskaya

One of the many things San Francisco and Brooklyn have in common is a large hipster population and organic farming collectives, but there is nothing their residents love more than artisanal design. To celebrate this mutual spirit, Health Ceramics of San Francisco is hosting a showcase of hand-made, table and home products created by Brooklyn based artisans, now through January 13.

Some of the featured artists include KleinReid Designs minimalistic hand-made porcelain tableware, that have been sold by Room and Board, Doug Johnson and his one-of-a-kind, hand-stitched rope bags and home accessories, and Julia Schwadron’s tribal-inspired paintings of earth tones and geometric patterns.

Styled by acclaimed New York stylist Pam Morris, this is the first time Heath has featured Brooklyn artisans. A San Francisco ceramics institution, Health Ceramics was founded by ceramics pioneer Edith Heath in 1948. Her inventions in clay and glaze development put San Francisco ceramics on the map and fueled the artisanal design movement at a time when mass-produced products reigned supreme.

In cities where it’s possible to buy almost everything artisanal and avoid the mass-produced all together, it’s fitting that San Francisco and Brooklyn artisans are coming together to support each others work.

Heath San Francisco Factory & Showroom
2900 18th Street, San Francisco, California 94110
415.361.5552 x13

Through Jan 13.