The Mental Museum

Archive for May 2009

Rio and Cildo

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Cildo Meireles is a Brazilian artist. His father’s work led him as cultural attache within rural Brazil, and in turn, offered insight for the Meireles family the ways of life and beliefs of the indigenous Tupi people who live today to prove survival from early Spanish and Portugese conquest. Cildo began his artistic endevours at the District Federal Cultural Foundation and later, contintued under a Peruvian individual named Felix.  Like the natural course of modernity, Brazil is scattered with namesakes that pay homage to their native people. A satirical film titled How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman apparently portrays a fictitious image of the Tupi tribe. Nonetheless, Cildo has surely poured wine over his heart and soul and achieved Tate status with works titled  Mission/Missions (How to Build Cathedrals) depicting pools of silver coins, towers of bread and a chandelier of bones. He also created a red room of other artists, a clock room inducing claustraphobia, a powder room of spectacular foot sensation, a massive radio tower, and fake money. A 1970’s photograph shows a slim and attractive Cildo making squares over squares over squares titled Meshes of Freedom with what seems to be an unlit fag between his lips, suggesting these may be sugar cubes he is constructing.  Shaggy hair, buttondown shirt, bellbottoms and boots. Total 1970’s sex appeal dictated by the music the disc jockey offered. In the photo, his left hand’s middle and ring finger touch the palm of his right hand. The back of the postcard reads Courtesy of the Artist. Here’s to you Cildo.


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May 30, 2009 at 11:59 pm

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The Woodblock and Japanese Tattoos

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Kuniyoshi, a trained Japanese printmaker living from 1797-1861 depicts tales of ancient Asian heros. His images tell stories of hard work, good conduct and lessons learned through others. He illustrates mythical ghosts and demons, warriors, geishas and other muses. He touches upon the Kabuki theater which struggled in its histories to remain legal.  A resolution was set to protect the identity of the actors and actresses while still allowing for the theaters to remain open. The delicate designs of woodblock prints such as Kuniyoshi’s infiltrated its way to the human flesh. Tattooing was another taboo that struggled with its social standing in Japanese culture. Moving from high society to the underground back up to the brave and couragous, tattooing was repeatedly outlawed. In 1854, after Japan’s isolationist policy ended, it began to accept modern thought, while symaltaniously loosing the floating world of brothels, tea houses and also Kabuki theater within cosmopolitan Tokyo. Ukiyo-e, the woodblock printing, was also beginning to fade with the aid of modern technology such as photography. And tattooing became the hybrid craft. Much like photographer and model, tattoo artist must break through an immortal barrier between canvas, the flesh, and craftsmen. Kuniyoshi broke through this barrier with his printmaking. Trust emerges between artist and subject when visual tales of the higher orders are told. And ultimately, trust in the trained hand with one’s own body is the highest level of trust. For ultimately, all we have physically is our vehicle for which to carry us through life.

While the Japanese style tattoo has become popular across some cultures, with no surprise does the western sailor style tattoo still remain repellent from Japan. The authentic methods of tattooing in the east is called tebori, or hand tattoo; a slow and painful process inserting ink one pain staking stitch at a time. The reluctance of purest Japanese tattoo artists to evolve towards new technology was linked to the status of Japanese tattoos as a craft. Tiger symbolism is commonly seen, yet first drawn from memory and not actual presence. The borrowed Chinese Lion or the Korean Falcon may also be seen. The dragon, the phoenix and various gods also encapsulate codes of honor stemming from Buddhist thought. As first a craft with hand held tools, does modern technology allow it to remain a craft ? Or is it now an art ? Or now commercial ? Or perhaps now an outlet.

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May 8, 2009 at 12:56 am

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