Blog by Brian Hendershot; Lessons by Crystal Ruiz
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Art and creativity are important at any time, for reasons that, as a reader of the Oculus, you are no doubt familiar with. They challenge our perspectives, compel us to empathize, and for many, offer a means of escape and relaxation. There's also a significant amount of evidence suggesting that arts education leads to increased civic engagement, greater social tolerance, and increased academic performance.
At the time of writing, we are the middle of quarantine, the consequences of which will no doubt stretch into the coming months, if not years. That's why we've decided to make some of our educational offerings temporarily free, starting with three lessons that are typically part of our School Programs. A brief intro into each lesson is available below, along with a brief, related art history lesson. A detailed lesson plan, which includes pictures and detailed steps, is available at the end of each section. Be sure to check out our YouTube page for more educuational, family-friendly content.
Paper Sculpture Challenge!
San Francisco artist Robert Hudson's work is characterized by its lack of symmetry and distinctive use of found objects. According to Hudson, he loves to be "in a position of being overwhelmed," a sentiment reflected in his art (Smithsonian, 2020). Before you begin, look at the work below with your child and ask the following questions:
- What kind of shapes do you see? Did you use geometric or organic shapes? Both?
- Describe your use of color. What colors did you use? Why?
- What do you like or dislike about the work? Why?
- Compare your artwork to Robert Hudson's piece, Outrigger. What looks different? What looks the same?
About the Artist
Robert Hudson studied at the San Francisco Art Institute during the early 1960s, a time when the second wave of Abstract Expressionism and Bay Area Figuration dominated the curriculum. While pursuing sculpture, he found special encouragement from faculty member Manuel Neri and sought to create large sculptures of welded steel. Like Neri, he aimed to create a dialogue with Expressionism and Figuration, and so began to paint his metal assemblages with bold colors.
Hudson added found objects, like the distinctive antlers of Outrigger, to his works, creating seemingly irrational sculptures. Symmetry is avoided, and the sense of instability is intentional. The title of the work describes projecting supports on either boats or aircraft and is suggested by the sculptural that elements curve around and then thrust from the core lattice.
Hudson especially enjoyed the disjuncture between the flat and the fully round, which his decorative painting enhanced. Treating the surface as a canvas, especially a patterned canvas, Hudson flattens forms and draws attention to specific zones. However, the final result is open and full of movement as called for by the tenets of 20th-century Modernist sculpture.
Cut It, Shape It, Glue It On!
Roy De Forest called art "one of the last strongholds of magic", a thought evidenced by his richly colored and textured fantasy worlds (Smithsonian, 2020). Recollections of a Sword Swallower, pictured below, was inspired by the life story and photographs in sword swallower Daniel P. Mannix’s autobiography Memoirs of a Sword Swallower. Before you start, examine the work below with your child and and ask them the following questions:
- What is mixed-media?
- How would you describe this artwork to someone who could not see it?
- What kinds of shapes do you see?
- Describe the lines in the artwork? Does the artist use straight, curvy, zig-zag, dotted or many different lines?
- Describe the artist’s use of color. How does the artist's choice of colors make you feel?
About the Artist
Roy De Forest’s approach to humor and development of autobiographical work using a highly personal visual vocabulary made him a prominent figure among Funk artists. His paintings often included alter-ego depictions, with dogs serving as his stand-in. This particular painting was inspired by the life story and photographs in Daniel P. Mannix’s autobiography, Memoirs of a Sword Swallower.
His distinctive application of paint, which became known as “dots in candy-kiss relief”, was the result of acrylic paint squeezed directly from the tube onto the canvas. The application began with his early artistic forays into Abstract Expressionism. Beginning in 1958, while De Forest was completing his M.F.A., short strokes of pigment, applied with either the palette knife or brush, appeared in his oil paintings and mixed-media experiments on paper. By 1965, when he became a lecturer — and thereafter a faculty member at the University of California, Davis — De Forest's “candy-kiss” technique was well-known.
Aside from the flattened, cartoonish appearance of his figures, especially the silhouettes in this painting, De Forest enjoyed the naïve effect of his quite skilled production. Consistent throughout De Forest’s creation are bright, riotous displays of color. In his paintings and drawings, he used every manner of acrylic paint, marker, colored pencil, canvas, paper, and even glitter, as he does here. Over time, his decorative treatments extended to painted frames designed specifically to accompany each work.
Lines Come to Life!
Claire Falkenstein began her career at the center of San Francisco’s art scene. In 1954, she made a major contribution to the art world with groundbreaking wire and fused glass works that explored the concept of space. Before you start your project, observe the artwork below and describe what you see. Then, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is a sculpture? What is the difference between shape and form?
- What forms do you see in this artwork?
- What kind of lines do you see? Does the artist use straight, curvey, zig-zag lines or many different lines?
- Describe the artist’s use of color. What colors have been used?
- What does this artwork remind you of?
About the Artist
Claire Falkenstein began her career at the center of San Francisco’s art scene. She was a painter and sculptor engaged with Pacific Coast Surrealism and a respected instructor at the California School of Fine Arts from 1947–49.
She moved to Paris in 1950, where she continued her work on a smaller scale by making art jewelry. She mastered new techniques and forms, and increasingly used wire. By 1953, she had taken wire to unprecedented levels, constructing larger, complex nettings of filament, soldered wherever necessary. Her forms were open work pods or, in this instance, cubes. Falkenstein offered a radical solution to sculpture and space by manipulating material in such an original manner.
Her next major breakthrough came with the embedding of glass pieces into her lattices. At first these were wedged into place, wrapped by the wire, and held by pressure alone. In 1954, she learned kiln and torch techniques that allowed her to address the different melting points of her materials. Fragments of colored glass could be slumped amid the filaments, often fully encasing them. Further defining the fabric of space, glass also added a new sensuousness to the work.
With her nontraditional materials, organic forms, and innovative processes, Falkenstein’s aesthetic fit nicely with the Art Informel, an improvisational movement favored by the art critic Michel Tapié in his book Un Art Autre (1952). Tapié’s support cemented Falkenstein’s reputation abroad. In 1962, she left Europe to continue her career in Los Angeles, and by the 1970s, she had executed numerous commissions for monumental works.