Tag Archives: American art

RIP John ‘dots over people’s faces’ Baldessari (1931 – 2020)

John Baldessari was an American artist.

A short documentary on Baldessari’s work and legacy narrated by Tom Waits.

A typical Baldessari work is Painting for Kubler (1967–68) which is a painting of a text paraphrasing five theses from art historian George Kubler’s book The Shape of Time (1962).

The text reads:

“This painting owes its existence to prior paintings. By liking this solution, you should not be blocked in your continued acceptance of prior inventions. To attain this position, ideas of former painting had to be rethought in order to transcend former work. To like this painting, you will have to understand prior work. Ultimately this work will amalgamate with the existing body of knowledge.”

In his own analysis, he said he would be best remembered as “the guy who puts dots over people’s faces.”

RIP Syd Mead (1933 – 2019)

Syd Mead was an American concept artist best known for his work on Blade Runner (1982), Tron (1982) and Aliens (1986).

His death comes only three months after the death of Luigi Colani (1928 – 2019) who was in a different but comparable branch of concept art.

Both Colani and Mead were obsessed with futuristic aerodynamics.

RIP RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ (late 1960 – 2010)

RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ was an American artist.

Somehow I missed this death. The passing of Pedro Bell brought it to my attention.

I want to show you three things:

RAMMΣLLZΣΣ: It’s Not Who But What (2018), a 9-minute documentary on RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ in which the art of Ramm is described as Transformers meets a mad scientist.
Beat Bop” (1983), an early hip hop recording in which Ramm raps.
Style Wars, a documentary on early hip hop and graffiti which features “Beat Bop” (above).


RIP Pedro “P-Funk” Bell (1950 – 2019)

Pedro Bell was an American artist and illustrator best-known for his work for Parliament-Funkadelic.

When I discovered Parliament-Funkadelic in the 1990s, part of the attraction was the visual style and the grand narrative holding the whole project together. This style was just as much due to George Clinton as to Pedro Bell.

Bell’s unique album and liner notes contributed substantially to the P-Funk mythology and begot the Afrofuturist aesthetic evident also in Jean-Michel Basquiat (see for example the sleeve design for “Beat Bop“).

His precursors in Afrofuturism are Lee “send him to outa space” Perry and Sun “space is the place” Ra.

Unidentified cartoon film by Pedro Bell featuring devices such as a “word scrambler,” a barrel of “fun sludge,” and a drug called “Jodybuster”.
One Nation Under a Groove” (1978), artwork by Pedro Bell

“Bell is a shackle (all shackles are just as essential) in the chain of Afrofuturism, Afro-Surrealism and black science fiction.” –Sholem Stein

A seminal text in his poetic oeuvre is from the sleeve notes of Standing on the Verge of Getting It On (1974):

“AS IT IS WRTTEN HENCEFORTH… On the Eighth Day, the Cosmic Strumpet of Mother Nature was spawned to envelope this Third Planet in FUNKADELICAL VIBRATIONS. And she birthed Apostles RaHendrixStone, and CLINTON to preserve all funkiness of man unto eternity… But! Fraudulent forces of obnoxious JIVATION grew…only seedling GEORGE remained! As it came to be, he did indeed begat FUNKADELIC to restore Order Within the Universe. And nourished from the pamgrierian mammaristic melonpaps of Mother Nature, the followers of FUNKADELIA multiplied incessantly!”

Pedro will be missed.

RIP Carolee Schneemann (1939 – 2019)

Carolee Schneemann was an American artist who flourished in the 1960s and 1970s with her “body art

Her best-known piece is Interior Scroll (1975), a performance in which she produced a scroll from her vagina while standing.

Her films include Fuses (1967) in which Schneemann and her then-boyfriend James Tenney are having sex, a reaction to Stan Brakhage’s Window Water Baby Moving (1959) which shows Brakhage’s wife giving birth.

Above are fragments of Fuses set to an educative narration made as a school or university assignment.

Appearing and disappearing

It’s funny how Venus Rising from the Sea — A Deception (c. 1822, above) by American painter Raphaelle Peale relates to the Veil of Veronica by Francisco de Zurbarán of the previous post.[1]

The Veil of Veronica is about appearing (the face of Jesus in a handkerchief), the Venus deception about hiding and disappearing (Venus hiding from sight).