Underpants in Art? | I’m Just Going to Keep This Brief

Yes, it appears that underwear and underpants can be a feature of art and here are some examples which prove this. Firstly, “The Connoisseur II”  by Peter Corlett, (born in Melbourne, on 16 January 1944) produced an Australian fibre-glass, reinforced polyester resin sculpture, 157×45×43 cm (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne).

  • Secondly we have Jordi Cordal’s Handle With Care’ which was shown at the 2012 Platform Contemporary Art Spaces. ‘Platform’, is Australia’s longest operating artist run initiative. One of its main exhibition points is the Campbell Arcade within the Flinders Street underpass area in central Melbourne. (Mixed media including Y front underpants, remote control, walnut shells, pea, plastic, graph paper and board).

Lastly I have included an ‘installation’ of a random pair of underpants which were attached to some external infrastructure in Hosier Lane. How they arrived and ended up, let alone displayed there, is anyone’s guess.

Y Fronts in Art? – Y Not!

When it comes to underpants as art, Y-Fronts? Y-Not!

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Early Depictions and Accounts of Fake News

“The Suicide of Alice Blanche Oswald” (from The Illustrated Police News, 21 September 1872).

During Queen Victoria’s British reign there was an increase in reporting sensational news stories which whet the general public’s appetite for more.  Many of these stories were accompanied by  crudely sketched pictures featured in publications such as The Illustrated Police News; adding sensationalist imagery to reports like “The Suicide of Alice Blanche Oswald” in 1872.

This kind of reporting is often referred to as “Penny Dreadfuls” which specialised in the genre of sin and sensation where the standard of illustration and tone gained a reputation during the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888. The content of The Illustrated Police News was similar to that of The Newgate Calendar and various contemporaries.

Most of the dreadful true happenings recounted in the papers were ‘news’ although some  must have been invented. Headlines were a specialty and sometimes a wonder to behold. For example:

A Sanctimonious Scoundrel Murders His Own Child
Suicide of Two Girls
A Living Woman Measured for Her Coffin
A Child Stolen by a Monkey
An Encounter With a Mad Dog at a Post Office
Death from Swallowing a Mouse
Throwing a Wife Out of a Window

The Illustrated Police News was never salacious, although it sometimes noted other matters rather than murder, such as:

  • Robbing Schoolgirls of Their Wearing Apparel” – is a headline of more promise than the supporting story provides.
  • A Girl Seized by a Gorilla” sounds even better, but it isn’t.
  • Extraordinary Science at a Wedding” tells a tale as old as bigamy.

There are also grisly executions, a side glance at sport (killed by a cricket ball); some distressing signs of sectarianism (horrible treatment of a nun); and a regrettable cessation with mutilating, flogging and cannibalism.

Clearly the fiction of the Victorian age was often far from nice and undoubtedly reported ‘Fake News’.

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All You Need is Love

American Pop Art movement artist Robert Indiana was born Robert Clark on 13 September, 1928 in New Castle, Indiana. His work often consists of bold, simple, iconic images and his best known image is the word LOVE in upper-case letters, arranged in a square with a tilted letter O. The iconography first appeared in a series of poems originally written in 1958, in which Indiana stacked LO and VE on top of one another. Then in a painting with the words “Love is God”.

  • His first red/green/blue LOVE print was created for the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) 1965 Christmas card.
  • This was followed in 1973 when the United States (US) Postal Service distributed Indiana’s LOVE stamp.
  • Sculptural versions of the image have been installed at numerous American and international locations. The sculpture LOVE is situated on Sixth Avenue at 55th Street, New York.
  • In May 2011, a 12-foot LOVE sculpture – one in an edition of three identical pieces – sold for $4.1 million.

LOVE is one of the most recognised and replicated pop-art images of all time. For example, the 1970 movie “Love Story” based on Erich Segal’s novel of the same name with its famous “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” line. The Love Story logo has a distinct likeness to Indiana’s varied LOVE images and uses the same colours, however there is no leaning letter O featured, so I assume it is not one of Indiana’s originals.

  • Indiana’s work is well represented throughout the US and worldwide. In 2013, the Whitney Museum of American Art mounted a retrospective of his work entitled “Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE “.

 What a LOVE Story | LOVE Is All You Need

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Crate Works of Art | Very Smart

[Jeff Smart ‘Self-Portrait at Papini’s’ (1984-85) oil & polymer on canvas 85x115cm]

Having always enjoyed this work by Smart, I was reminded of it whilst walking past the back-door of a local milk bar. Likewise, when I saw this ‘Random Acts of Gentle Anarchy‘ in Hosier Lane some time ago.

Jeff Smart (Full name: Frank Jeffrey Edson Smart), was born in Adelaide on 26 July 1921. An expatriate Australian painter, he is known for his precisionist depictions of urban landscapes that are ‘full of private jokes and playful allusions’. Self-Portrait at Papini’s was partly based on a photo of the artist standing in front of Papini’s workshop in Pieve a Presciano, in Tuscany. Papini was the owner of the petrol service station. Smart lived in Tuscany for 40 years until his death from renal failure in Arezzo, on 20 June 2013, aged 91.

  • This mid-career painting set an auction record for Smart when it sold in 2014 at Deutscher and Hackett’s Fine Art Auction in Sydney for $1.28 million. It is one of only 3 known self-portraits by Smart and considered the most substantial.
  • It was the first time the painting had come on the market since 1986 when it was bought by a Melbourne collector  from Smart’s Melbourne and Sydney gallery, Australian Galleries.
  • It appeared at the Master of Stillness: Jeffery Smart Paintings 1940-2011 at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art in Victoria.

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Compare the Pair #18 | The Lovers

[Left: Jeremy Park – Lovers (2002) c-type photograph; Right: Rene Magritte – The Lovers (Les Amants) oil on canvas (1928) 54x73cm National Gallery of Australia]

Sydney photographer Jeremy Park pays homage to Rene Magritte’sThe Lovers‘. Magritte’s original (painting) is one of a small group of pictures he painted in Paris in 1927-28, in which the identity of the figures is mysteriously shrouded in white cloth. The group of paintings includes L’histoire Centrale (The Central Story) 1927 (collection Isy Brachot, Brussels); L’invention de la vie  (The Invention of Life) 1927-28 (private collection, Brussels); and Les Amans (The Lovers) 1928 (collection National Gallery of Australia).

  • The origin of this disturbing image has been attributed to various sources in Magritte’s imagination. Like many of his Surrealist associates, Magritte was fascinated by ‘Fantômas‘, the shadowy hero of the thriller series which first appeared in novel form in 1913, and shortly after in films made by Louis Feuillade. The identity of ‘Fantômas‘ is never revealed; he appears in the films disguised with a cloth or stocking over his head.
  • Another source for the shrouded heads in Magritte’s paintings has been suggested in the memory of his mother’s apparent suicide. In 1912, when Magritte was only thirteen years of age, his mother was found drowned in the river Sambre; when her body was recovered from the river, her nightdress was supposedly wrapped around her head.

Magritte himself disliked explanations which diffused the mystery of his images. His matter-of-fact style deliberately eschewed the assumption that these images were simply the expression of personal fantasy or private neurosis. They are images calculated to unlock the darker side of the mind.

  • Lloyd, Michael and Desmond, Michael. (1972) European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery p.173.

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Summer Nights | Tell Me Moore, Tell Me More

[A Summer Night by Albert Moore, (1890) Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool]

Albert Joseph Moore (4 September 1841 – 25 September 1893) was an English painter known for his depictions of langorous female figures set against the luxury and decadence of the classical world. He was born in York and was the youngest of 14 children. In his childhood he showed an extraordinary love of art. Moore’s first exhibited works were two drawings which he sent to the Royal Academy in 1857 and a year later he became a student at the Academy. From 1858 to 1870, he produced and exhibited many pictures and drawings, and in 1863, he painted a series of wall decorations at Coombe Abbey, the seat of the Earl of Craven.

  • In 1866 he painted The Last Supper and The Feeding of the Five Thousand on the chancel walls of the church of St. Alban’s, in Rochdale and in 1868 A Greek Play, an important panel in tempera for the proscenium of the Queen’s Theatre in Long Acre.

Several of his pictures are now in public collections throughout the United Kingdom including the Tate Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum, all in London and at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, to name but a few.

  • Moore was sensitive to the beauty of flowers so much that he could not work in his studio unless he was surrounded by bowls filled with many coloured blooms.
  • In 1890, whilst finishing A Summer Night, Moore fell victim to a malady that within three years would prove fatal and he died at his studio in Spenser Street, Westminster on 25 September 1893.

Summer days drifting away, to uh oh, those Summer Nights!

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Lascaux Cave Art

The Lascaux Cave is a fine example of ‘Cave Art’. In the late 1930s on a wooded hill above the village of Montignac near Lascaux, France, a huge pine tree fell, revealing a narrow opening into an underground cavern. This remained unexplored until 12 September, 1940 when four teenage boys decided to venture inside. With a lantern in tow and at the bottom of the underground chamber they saw painted on the walls images of bulls, stags and horses. This chamber is now known as the Great Hall of the Bulls. This leads into a place even more wonderful, known as the Painted Gallery, a passageway of around 90 feet long almost completely covered with paintings of wild beasts including aurochs (an extinct form of ox) measuring 1.7 metres each.

The unknown artists used paints derived from metal oxides including iron oxide and manganese oxide. In other chambers, the figures of animals were incised into the stone face of the cave, probably using a sharp piece of flint.

Many examples of cave art are presented in alcoves and recesses which can only be reached via a tortuous network of underground channels . Mostly the caves were uninhabited and hardly located at eye-level on a handy upright wall, but situated several metres off the ground requiring their creators to have daubed while either lying on their backs or clinging precariously to a rock face. At Lascaux, the artist or artists used the entire chamber for their composition and incorporated the natural curves of the walls and ceiling to give more life to their images.

There are many interpretations for these paintings, varying from symbols of magic, relationships between hunters and “spirit animals”, or used at religious or ritualistic events.  Some experts believe that to early human beings, the animal images bore a significance that was related not to species, but to gender. One theory has it that the bison or aurochs represented femaleness and the horse maleness and their relative positions in a cave, spelling out symbolic messages, perhaps about birth and reproduction.

  • There is only one human figure in the Lascaux caves, in a room known as the Shaft of the Dead Man. It features a man lying flat on the ground while above him is a huge bison; its head down; posed to gore him to death. Off to one side, a figure of a rhinoceros is seen fleeing from the bison.

After the end of WW2, the Lascaux caves became a tourist destination with about 1200 visitors escorted through the chambers every day. By 1955 the tours were altering the atmosphere and the paintings were beginning to deteriorate. By 1963, the French Ministry of Cultural Affairs decided to close the caves to tourists.

  • Since 1983 visitors have been able to explore Lascaux II, an exact replica of the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Chamber.

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Rucker’s Musical Ruckus

[Two-manual harpsichord by Andreas Ruckers, Antwerp (ca 1628) inscribed Joannes Ruckers]

The Ruckers family were harpsichord and virginal makers from Antwerp in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Their influence stretched well into the 18th C and to the harpsichord revival of the 20th C. The Ruckers family contributed immeasurably to the harpsichord’s technical development, pioneering the addition of a second manual. The quality of their instruments is such that the Ruckers name is as important to early keyboard instruments as that of ‘Stradivarius’, to the violin family.

Head of the family, Hans Ruckers (1540s–1598) was born in Mechelen. Hans Ruckers became a member of the Guild of St Luke in 1579, and a citizen of Antwerp in 1594. He signed his instruments by working his initials into the rose. Two of his 11 children (Johannes and Andreas) became harpsichord makers and his daughter Catharina married into the instrument-making Couchet family, ensuring a strong continuation of both dynasties where her son Joannes continued in the family craft.

  • Existing examples of Hans’ instruments include virginals from the 1580s and 1590s now in Berlin, Bruges, New York, Paris and Yale University. He was also an organ builder and was known to have worked on the organs of Jacobskerk and Antwerp Cathedral.

Joannes Ruckers (15 January 1578 – 29 September 1642) was the first son of Hans to become a harpsichord and organ maker. He lived his life in Antwerp where he and his brother Andreas (30 August 1579 – after 1645) became partners in the business upon their father’s death.

In 1608 after Andreas sold his share of the family business, brother Joannes became the sole owner. Johannes joined the Guild of St Luke in 1611. He engraved ‘IR’ into the rose of his instruments, rather than his father’s ‘HR’. His nephew Joannes Couchet joined his workshop around 1627, taking it over after Johannes Ruckers death in 1642.

  • Around 35 examples of Joannes’ instruments are in existence today.
  • Likewise, Andreas surviving instruments are dated from 1607 to 1644 and are in collections all over the world.

Decoration of an instrument was as careful and elaborate as its construction. The rose in the soundboard is surrounded by a painted wreath of flowers and other flora and fauna in tempera. The roses used by all members of the Ruckers family show an angel playing a harp, with the initials of the builder on each side of it. The date was found either on the soundboard or the wrest plank.

  •  And if I played it now, what a ruckus it would make!

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Michael’s KmitMent To Neo-Byzantine Art

[Edda by Michael Kmit (1966) oil on hardboard 72 x 48]

Ukrainian/Australian artist Michael Kmit was born in Stryi, Lviv on 25 July 1910. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Kraków, but due to the conflict in WW2, he was forced to leave his homeland and as a displaced person moved to Innsbruck, Austria where he met Dorothea (Edda) in 1945. They married in Landeck and later moved to Bregenz where their two daughters, Xenia & Tania (Tatiana) were born. While in post-war Europe Kmit studied under cubist artist Fernand Léger in Paris, and futurist Carlo Carrà in Italy. He then emigrated to Australia in 1949, where he initially worked at a cement factory in Villawood, New South Wales.

Kmit met artists such as James Gleeson Donald Friend and Russell Drysdale, who were impressed with his work. They helped him find lodgings at Merioola and work nearer to the artist community in Sydney. Working by day as a railway porter and cleaner and artist by night, he established himself “as one of Australia’s best artists” of the time. He and his family moved to the United States in 1958, setting up residence in the San Francisco Bay area.

  • Kmit’s art was inspired by the Byzantine era of religious icon painting which earned him the label of a Neo-Byzantine artist, as his paintings integrated stylized portraiture with geometric cubist and constructivist forms, patterns and vivid colour inspired from his teachers Léger and Carrà.
  • In 1969 James Gleeson described Kmit as “one of the most sumptuous colourists of our time”.

Kmit’s American period did not result in a lot of success and he suffered from depression due to the end of his marriage. He returned to Australia in 1965 and remarried.

Until his death in Sydney on 22 May 1981, Kmit had exhibited in numerous group shows throughout Australia and won a number of major Australian art prizes including the Blake Prize (1952) and the Sulman Prize (in both 1957 and 1970).

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Her Cross | Lawson Wood

[ “Her Cross” from Lady Pictorial magazine November 20, 1915, Pictorial Review Supplement 1916]

English painter, illustrator and designer Lawson Wood, was born Clarence Lawson Wood, on 23 August 1878 in Highgate, London. He was the son of landscape artist Pinhorn Wood and the grandson of architectural artist L. J. Wood. He studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, Heatherley’s School of Fine Art and Frank Calderon’s School of Animal Painting.

  • In 1902, Wood married Charlotte Forge. From the age of 24 he pursued a successful freelance career and was published in The Graphic, The Strand Magazine, Punch, The Illustrated London News, and Boys Own Paper.
  • Wood was a member of the London Sketch Club. He was also elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours and exhibited with Walker’s Galleries, Brook Street Art Gallery and the Royal Academy.

Wood is known for his humorous depictions of cavemen and dinosaurs, policemen, and animals, especially a chimpanzee called Gran’pop, whose annuals circulated around the world. His books include The Bow-Wow Book (1912), Rummy Tales (1920), The Noo-Zoo Tales (1922), Jolly Rhymes (1926), Fun Fair (1931), The Old Nursery Rhymes (1933), The Bedtime Picture Book (1943), Meddlesome Monkeys (1946), Mischief Makers (1946), and others. His bird and animal designs were reproduced as wooden toys known as “The Lawson Woodies”.

  • During WWI, Wood served as an officer in the Kite Balloon Wing of the Royal Flying Corps and was responsible for spotting planes from a hot-air balloon. In recognition he was decorated by the French for his gallantry at Vimy Ridge.

Lawson Wood was deeply concerned with animal welfare and was awarded membership to the Royal Zoological Society in 1934. He also established a sanctuary for aged creatures. In his later years, he was a recluse and dwelt in a 15th-century medieval manor house which he moved brick by brick from Sussex to the Kent border. He died in Devon on 26 October 1957 at the age of 79.

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The Spring Cycle

[Above: Spring Cycle by Wen Jun (mixed media) 2013].

This colourful artwork is in the form of a pedicab, which was once commonly used as transport in Chinese cities. Painted in the traditional Spring Festival style, the eight paintings on it include traditional symbols based on ancient Chinese concepts of a happy, healthy and wealthy life.

The artwork was developed in collaboration with RMIT University researchers: Asiam Akram, Paul Kwek and Geoff Hogg.

  • Spring Cycle belongs to the Museum of Chinese Australian History at 22 Cohen Place, in the heart of Melbourne’s thriving Chinatown. Established in 1985, the museum occupies 5 floors of an old warehouse and contains artifacts relating to Chinese Australian history, the Victorian gold rush, a Dragon Gallery and other special exhibitions.

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The Family of Charles Hill

South Australian engraver, painter and arts educator Charles Hill was born in Coventry, England, in 1824. His father was an officer who served under Lord Wellington and was later the reforming Governor of Leicester County Prison.  Charles was more interested in art than a military career and served an apprenticeship as line engraver to Mark Lambert in Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1840 he enrolled in the Newcastle Fine Arts Academy and took lessons at the Government School of Design. He was one of those responsible for the famous engraving which depicted the opening on The Crystal Palace in 1851.

Hill emigrated to South Australia on the recommendation of Archdeacon Farr (1819–1904), in the hope that a change of climate would be good for his health, arriving on the Historia in 1854. He found employment as art teacher at St. Peter’s College, the Adelaide Educational Institution (AEI), Mrs. Woodcocks Christ Church school room; Miss Roland’s school on Tavistock Street, and later Mrs. Bell’s school. He opened his own School of Art in his home in Pulteney Street in 1856.

Hill and fellow drawing master W.W. Whitridge formed the South Australian Society of Arts. He then founded the South Australian School of Design in 1861, and Hill was chosen as its first Master; a role he maintained through several changes of name and focus, until he retired around 1886. He was also a member of Adelaide’s Bohemian Club. Charles Hill died on  16 September 1915.

Notable paintings include:

  • Wreck of the Admella donated to the Art Gallery’s historic collection by the artist’s grandson H. L. Hill in 1944
  • The Artist and His Family
  • The Back Garden (ca.1870) held by the National Gallery of Australia

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Thank Heaven for 7 Eleven

Japanese contemporary artist Mr (born in 1969 in Cupa, Japan) is based in the Saitama Prefecture near Tokyo. As a young child he had a love for drawing and received many awards and accolades. By high school he was painting with oils. This encouraged Mr to study art for eight years before graduating from Sokei Art School in 1996.

A former protégé of Takashi Murakami, Mr works in a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture and video, He takes his inspiration from TV, though his works are all closely related in aesthetics, style, and theme.

  • He is a self-proclaimed otaku (people who love animation, games and manga) with a ‘Lolita-complex’ as many of  his pieces depict young boys and girls in an anime/manga style. While quite cute and innocent on the surface, many of his works are also quite sexualised, tying into the anime phenomenon of sābisu katto (aka fan service).

He has since worked as an assistant to Murakami, and member of Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki art production studio which has also supported Mr in his solo career. His participation in Murakami’s 2000 exhibition Super Flat played a crucial role in earning him international attention and recognition.

  • Mr’s work debuted in both solo and group exhibitions in 1996, and he has exhibited in museums and galleries from Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, through to Paris, New York, Minneapolis, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Jerusalem, and London.
  • Mr exhibited in a group show at the Grimaldi Forum, in Monaco, entitled ‘Exhibition Kyoto-Tokyo: From Samurais to Mangas’ and had a solo exhibition at Leeahn Gallery in Seoul, South Korea.
  • In 2014 he had a solo exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum.

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By Hook or By Crooke | These are Worth a Good Look

Australian artist Ray Austin Crooke was born in Auburn, Victoria on 12 July 1922. He is known for serene views of Islander people and ocean landscapes, many of which are based on the art of Gauguin. He spent time in Townsville, Cape York and other parts of northern Australia during the WW2. After the War he enrolled in Art School at Swinburne University of Technology and later travelled to New Guinea, Tahiti and Fiji.

  • He won the Archibald Prize in 1969 with a portrait of George Johnston.
  • Many of his works are in Australian galleries and his painting The Offering (1971) is in the Vatican Museum collection.

Crooke was responsible for the dust-jacket for Poor Fellow My Country by Xavier Herbert. He has received an Order of Australia medal (OAM) Australia in the 1993 Australia Day Honours, “in recognition of service to the arts, particularly as a landscape artist” He died on 5 December, 2015 at the age of 93.

  • North of Capricorn” was an Australian touring retrospective exhibition in 1997 organised by the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery (Townsville, Queensland, Australia) initiated and curated by Grafico Topico’s writer and curator Sue Smith.
  • Information about the exhibition and tour can be found at Grafico Topico

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Is this Prop Art?

Above: There is no authority but yourself (Enamel paint on steel and composition board).

  • Did someone get distracted and forget to hang this up?

Melbourne artist and experimental musician Marco Fusinato was born in 1964. His interests include political and artistic radicalism.

  • Much of his work adopts a punk approach or anti-art sensibility as seen in this group of monochromes which were first exhibited in 1996 at Melbourne’s 200 Gertrude Street (now Gertrude Contemporary). Painted quickly, using cheap everyday materials found readily in his studio, these paintings reveal Fusinato’s interest in speed and seriality and in challenging preconceived ideas about art; while his use of red alludes to a career-long investigation into the history of far-left politics in Italy.

As a teenager Fusinato was influenced by the punk movement. After the punk movement dissolved, he became more interested in experimental music, primarily the free-improvised noise side of it. This leads to what still influences and inspires him today – radical politics. The works Fusinato makes usually come from material he has been collecting and archiving for long periods of time.

  • His recent exhibitions have drawn on his personal archive of radical political pamphlets (Noise and Capitalism 2010); avant–garde music scores (Mass Black Implosion 2008); and grainy newspaper photographs of political protesters (Double Infinitive 2009).

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