The Mental Museum

The Woodblock and Japanese Tattoos

with 2 comments

Kuniyoshi4351

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.

Advertisements

Written by thementalmuseum

May 8, 2009 at 12:56 am

Posted in 1

Rising Buffalo

leave a comment »

ent_zig_res_11

Repression is defined as the rejection from consciousness of painful or disagreeable ideas, memories, feelings, or impulses. Perhaps on another token, it is tough love or maybe even an over abundance of love that squeezes an entity dry, or in this case, almost dry. Mr. Zig Jackson is a Native American Indian of Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara descent. The three affiliated tribes from the Dakota areas of the United States. Small pox divided the tribes and the bureau of Indian affairs gave the surviving old Indians the last names, Jackson, Stevenson and Lincoln; names of three of the US presidents. Through a government rationed lifestyle and the education he received from a government Indian boarding school, St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota, the system managed to pave a path. Mr Zig Jackson is now a long standing professor of photography currenlty teaching at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Throughout the year he collects donated clothes to take back with him on annual trips across country to his family. Realizing where you are from I suppose is an important process in art making and art experiencing. For Mr. Zig, the journey has come full circle and he is able now to give back in more ways than one. However, he attributes his early childhood education to his passion for art. He states “For as long as I can remember, art has been my passion. An integral part of my culture, art to me is innate. As a child, I remember playfully fighting with my brothers over government commodity boxes which we used to sketch on; commodities were U.S.-subsidized foods given to us by the government.” Perhaps from this we can learn to instead create meaningful art and not war.


	

Written by thementalmuseum

April 22, 2009 at 1:38 am

Posted in 1

The Kiss

leave a comment »

klimt_the_kiss_1907_8

Orientalism is an era in history that one would think is tied to the Fast East. Rather, the art stemming from this era tells of journeys made to the Near East or the Middle East rather. English and French voyagers paved paths and made accessible the gems of the Middle East. Culture, tile work, probably music and women. I suppose depending on what you read, art was born in this era when these men began to paint what they saw and what they experienced. Traveling along the Nile, Sheikhs were depicted in proud head robes and vast landscapes were captured with brush and even on plate. Pale Moorish women were painted in poses reflecting Venus di Milo suggesting women were taken on these trips, or perhaps they were already there from earlier histories of trade and conquest. Gypsies painted playing music or with solomon eyes and Syrian trecks across deserts depicting dry land and dead animals. Art of the Orient tells its own tale of trade, knowledge and inspiration. Meanwhile, the foreshadowing Klimt is painting away in Austria, and the flood gates open. Notice her circles and his squares and the beautiful patch of flowers they kneel upon.

Written by thementalmuseum

April 20, 2009 at 5:45 am

Posted in 1

Pieter Hugo vs. Renzo Martens

leave a comment »

13

Hollywood, Bollywood and now Nollywood. Nigerian woodstock? Or should I say blackstock? Pieter Hugo is from Johannesburg, South Africa and became enamoured with performers from the streets of Nigeria. A nomadic relationship between beast and man is a perfect metaphor for Africa nation. The outcome of the United State’s civil war was the precursor to the much later 1966 formation of The Black Pathner Party, an African-American self defense organization existing, in more recent years, primarily in southern US states. Initially formed in Oakland, California, near San Fransisco, its main goal was an attempt to bring deserved justice to the black community after years of soiled histories of repression between the Afro society and the Whities, (also existing in South America and extending in earlier histories to Spain.) As the Vietnam war approached, counterculters in the US were being formed. Some Americans moved out of the country to escape the draft while others plundged head first into the line of duty. The hippy movement, 1969 Woodstock is probably the best known wave of counterculture thought. The Black Panther was another. Its ideas stemmed from socialist Marxisms and communist Maoisms in attempts to alleviate poverty and promote education within and defend itself against heavy lingering racisms. However, during the late 60s and 70s, the Black Panthers began to accept more advocates outside of the black community, merging with the hippy movement. Nonetheless, titles have evolved to photographs and culture is being preserved. Hollywood we know and love of course. Bollywood is up and coming to mainstream society with its Slumdog Millionare and now we have Nollywood. Africa beast is in the air. Photographer Pieter Hugo has infiltrated this Nigerian stage and captures the power of a relationship between actual beast and man. However, not a black panther, a hyenna. Another beast in this case, and perhaps an equal mix of feline and canine at that. Beautiful and telling and captured on paper to be preserved forever. With another plane ticket, we have Dutch artist Renzo Martens making Gonzo documentaries titled Enjoy Poverty. Of the two, which speaks louder, for longer?

Written by thementalmuseum

April 16, 2009 at 1:27 am

Posted in 1

Lee Miller

leave a comment »

lee_miller_space

Lee Miller was an American photographer from upstate New York. Her determination, her beauty and perhaps her agreeable disposition enabled her to travel. She began her career as a New York City fashion model, on the other side of the camera, photographed by the likes of Edward Steichen and other reputable names. Her first big break was acquainting herself with photographer Man Ray, who took her to Paris to, assumingly, pose as the character of many roles. Through this relationship, among others, she gained the eye of a documentary photographer. She was exposed to a world outside her home in upstate New York, a world far more vast than perhaps she had ever imagined. With the opportunities that came her way, she took the bull by the horns.  She is best known for her surrealist photographs which speak in the language of poetic metaphors. Similar to fashion photography and quite opposite photojournalism, her surrealist work (and her fashion photography work for which she is less known) intentionally and intelligently offer invading objects that occupy her photographic space. In some ways, this is surrealism because it is not true documentary. For better or for worse, it is the manipulated landscape. With surrealism, the power lies in the hands of the photographer rather than in the hands of the scene. Other renoun surrealists are Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali, who took this movement a few steps further and altered his mind far beyond the likes of sanity. With intentional starvation and sleep deprivation and love sick mutiny, Dali’s body and heart became a tool to produce imagery that a ‘healthy’ mind may not encounter. On a similar note, Lee Miller used herself as a tool of expression and access, which can speak, in an artist’s world, as the relationship between artist and muse and muse and artist. Through both artist’s gestures, an image taken by Lee of Picasso staring back at his own female creation suggests perhaps both artists are thoroughly perplexed. Above, however is a surrealist picture of a ripped screen offering a view of a barren desert. Is that a mirror above it?

Written by thementalmuseum

April 11, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Posted in 1

Picasso Painting Guernica

with 3 comments

picasso-guernica3

Picasso’s Guernica can be considered stemming from the cubist era of art. Notice the simple shapes he uses to construct this moment in history. Cylinders, triangles, squares, rectangles and circles make up his heavily weighted piece, massive in size and only black, white and gray. He depicts despair in the time of the Spanish civil war. As he paints two lights, a candle and a bulb he offers hope and yet fear with one knife. Notice the offset eyes of some of his characters, crazed with fear. He also paints the all knowing eye at the lower left. Although Spain is a united country, the Basque region of northern Spain exists as a linguistic phenomenon given that the language spoken is nothing like French nor Spanish. The city of Bilboa lies in the central Basque region, assumingly named after Spanish Catholic explorer, Vasco de Balboa.  There seems to be ground for assumption that the Basques are descendence from the aboriginal race of Europe. The language curiously has only two conjugations; “to be” and the other to express “to have” and encompasses as many as 25 dialects. A portion of their pride must surely be accredited to their resilience to a Roman attempt to impose a new language.  The Basque provences also encompassed the center of the iron mining regions of Spain, yet their language was not condusive to all allies formed during the civil war. Nonetheless, a complex network of factions within his country likely drove Picasso to look to France, his canvas and his pigment for an attempt to discover personal solace.

Written by thementalmuseum

April 8, 2009 at 9:42 am

Posted in 1

Marco Ferreri

with one comment

img_0587

Marco Ferreri, was an Italian film director, actor and screen playwright who died at age 68 in 1997. He is considered one of the most original Italian cinematic artists. His works initially, speak of his personal adversaries of manhood which, in turn are comprehended and can be sympathized with worldwide and on many levels; political, philosophical, historical, ethical and primal. His acclaimed film Don’t Touch the White Woman encompasses these adversaries and are experienced through his main character, Custer and various supporting male characters. A Parisian no man’s land sets the stage for a Western saga of an influential political man who faces the “new frontier.” He, and other characters, are confronted with decisions to do with gentrification, temptation and competition, among other pressures. Although the story is an archetypical wild western with cowboys and indians, the plot is universal. Colonization is universal. Love is universal. Temptation is universal. Death and war and counterculture is universal so is personal and political ideological competition. We see this and know this exists throughout history and throughout the news and other media today. For example, its no secret that Britain colonized India and now India has somewhat recolonized Britain. Or, that Indians initially colonized the Americas, only to be recolonized again by the western Europeans… and then, subserviently, Latin Americans and now, Africans. These are specific histories that encompass a cycle of gentrification. However, Ferreri steers away from this and uses the history and outcome of the Vietnam and Algerian Wars to parody his film.

Ironically though, Paris is Ferreri’s stage for such a “New Frontier” narrative. And France’s identity, quite like Italy’s, is not a current issue and is in fact more ingrained in the deep depths of history. A history which has suffered or perhaps benefited from the lack of, at the time, globalization and mass media documentation (eg. propaganda). From here, one could speak of entropy in today’s society of knowledge and opinion and access. But I’ll stop here and ask;

So with this said and with all we know of current events, where in the world, today, is this new frontier?

Written by thementalmuseum

March 22, 2009 at 12:45 am

Posted in 1