I was able to visit two museums on Thursday, December 20th: The Cartoon Art Museum and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I saw some awesome puppets, a bull’s head in formaldehyde, and a painting by Jay DeFeo that took eight years to complete. What a great way to spend end-of-the-world eve!
Sketches from Black Friday.
The International Art Museum of America opened its doors on October, 15th, 2011. This institution showcases works made by the alleged reincarnation of the primordial sambhogakaya Buddha. Earlier this week, Artist Andy Gouveia and I paid the museum a visit and stepped into the world of H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III. I only came up with a couple of drawings and some verbatim notes of description labels. There were odd curatorial choices that made it hard to observe and understand some of the pieces. The interior also looked like Tony Montana’s house so the lavishness was distracting at times. One thing is certain, the IAMA is unlike any other art museum in San Francisco.
The museum celebrates the work of H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III but there were very few of his original paintings on display. Most of the artist’s two-dimensional works were scans or photo reproductions printed on traditional hanging scrolls. Andy and I even saw pixelation in some of pieces. All the paintings were hung within glass display cases. We spent a lot of time getting close to the pieces — fogging the glass up with or breath — asking each other “is this one real?” Many of the reproductions had areas of opaque paint or textured varnish brushed on top to make them more unique.
There were a number of original, western style paintings (primarily from the 19th century) on display. Unlike the Buddha pieces, the European paintings had descriptive labels with dates and the artist’s country of origin. These works did not have their own section; they were hung next to more H.H Dorje Chang Buddha III paintings. To show his admiration of western art, the Buddha made two paintings based on works by Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh. These works combined oil paint and what looked like spray foam to achieve three-dimensional effects. It was described as the “Thickly Piled Patches of Color” style.
The sculptural works on display were interesting and fun to look at. On the IAMA website, the sculptures are described as faux boulders. Cavernous worlds exist within these egg-like objects. Andy and I guessed that they were most likely made from the foam spray seen in some of the Buddha’s other paintings and decorative frames. Each piece sat upon rippling silky fabric, fully enclosed in glass. Andy commented that if the sculptures were placed on plain white pedestals with no enclosure, they would resemble something seen at YBCA or some other contemporary gallery.
There is no doubt that H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III is a prolific artist. However, the International Art Museum of America collection showed us the work of a dabbler. There were many beautiful works on display but the word “mastery” did not come to mind when viewing them. The quality of Buddha’s calligraphy was questionable and the extravagantly ornate paintings (and exhibition space) seemed contradictory to Buddhist ideals. Andy and I left the museum with more questions than before. I still feel ignorant of Tibetan Buddhist doctrines and H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III is more enigmatic than ever.
If you have read this far or have recently visited the IAMA please share your thoughts.
On the evening of the event, I hosted a drop-in collage workshop where visitors could make their own version of the logo. Many thanks to the staff and volunteers that helped out at the table that night. Everybody made beautiful work and nobody was on brand.
I am convinced that Dan Clowes draws the best faces of any comic book artist alive today. There is a video installation in the Modern Cartoonist show that displays morphing portraits of Clowes characters. It was hypnotic! Each face was beautifully rendered with intricate hatching. Of all my sketching sessions at museums this past year, I struggled the most with this one to keep a steady hand. I ended up fixing up some of my drawings with a Tombow brush marker when I got back to the studio.
I think that the appeal of Clowes’s women is in their lips and big teeth. The artist has great sensibilities for prettiness.
Oh and by the way, I own a Dan Clowes piece. Clowes sketched this picture of Enid at the Alternative Press Expo back in 2004. I saw him at APE 2011 but didn’t want to bother him again. I still kind of regret requesting Enid and not a more obscure character. You know, to prove that I was a true fan.
Here are my sketches from Image Comics: A Twentieth Anniversary Celebration at the Cartoon Art Museum. The exhibit was a lot smaller than I had expected but it turned out that the limited size worked in favor of the art. There were tremendous amounts of detail in each original page and cover, so I had to spend a lot of time looking at them.
I learned how to draw Grifter from one of the old masters, Jim Lee. Yes, back in junior high I considered these guys to be the “old masters”. Where are Grifter’s guns? I must admit, I didn’t have much fun drawing his hands splayed out like that.
Mako, the shark guy from the Savage Dragon, was sketched from a collaborative piece with all the Image power players. I’m guessing that Erik Larson drew that particular character in the original piece. Of course, there were a few pieces from The Walking Dead in the exhibit. I was drawn to Charlie Adlard’s moody cover.