Colors of Hope: A Heartfelt Art Story

July 17, 2009 at 2:08 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

heilman, 2000, Dennis Dutzi

"Heilman," 2000, Dennis Dutzi

If you don’t have plans tomorrow, take note.  In downtown LA, on Gallery Row, at the remarkable Pharmaka Art Gallery, there will be a Pop Art event worth getting excited about.

On display will be the work of late artist Dennis Dutzi, who died of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2005 at the age of 41. This special exhibit is to benefit Colors of Hope, a non-profit foundation intended to help people suffering from cancer and other debilitating diseases with the overwhelming physical and financial challenges.  Colors of Hope was started in Dennis’ honor by his long-time partner Tony Grajeda.

"California Dream," Dennis Dutzi

"Just One More Kiss," Dennis Dutzi

At Saturday’s event some 11 or so remaining originals, are being sold, along with a limited edition series of giclees, to raise money for the Colors of Hope foundation and Pharmaka.

At the reception at Thursday’s artwalk, I had a chance to see his work.  It is in the style I most love — true LA.  Huge canvases full of sun-drenched faces, some clad in large sunglasses, other in wide brimmed hats.  Some sit pool side, others indulge in candy bars or Barbie dolls or their dogs.  But common in all, is the beautiful So Cal sun.  In Dennis’ world, everyone is in the spotlight and boy do they look fabulous!

Dennis knew his share of celebrities and their images are included in the collection.  And he paid homage to the nonhuman stars of LA, the landmarks that also define our lifestyle, like Randy’s Donuts and Bob’s.  If ever there was a talent overlooked in his lifetime, Dennis is that talent.   Seeing his work will make that perfectly clear.

The event will be help at the Pharmaka Art Gallery, 101 West 5th St. (at Main), Los Angeles, CA  90013.  4-7 pm.  Donation required.


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Iconically Michael

July 9, 2009 at 3:01 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

The iconic Michael Jackson.

The iconic Michael Jackson.

Like everyone, I was deeply impacted by the death of Michael Jackson.  As a fan of pop culture and the arts, I found it an especially sad day.

Michael was brilliant in areas beyond his singing talent.  His ability to artistically and visually brand himself is unparalleled.   I can remember seeing him in outfits that I just couldn’t take my eyes off of – sparkling military jackets, a white fedora, silver pants, large black aviator glasses, skinny pants that were short and tight.  Some details would change, but others became signature items.  All of it was artistically arranged and stunning.  Even the white glove, love it or not, was emblematic.

Designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac invokes Michael Jackson and Andy Warhol in his designs for Paris Fashion Week ’09.

Designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac invokes Michael Jackson and Andy Warhol in his designs for Paris Fashion Week ’09.

All of this created an image that was bold, bright and imprinted in our minds.  Michael was a visual master as well as a musical one.

Other artistic talents took notice.  Michael Jackson was fortunate to have two huge names in contemporary art pay tribute to his unique brand – Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons – proof that Michael had become a cultural icon.  Both of these men have much in common with Michael.  Along with their own artistic talent, both of them have created personal brands that have helped — drastically — to increase sales.  As odd as you might think Michael was, Andy Warhol spent years being the creepy dude of New York City partly as a means of drawing attention to his work.

Right under our noses, Michael was creating an identifiable cultural brand, one that silently crept into the landscape of our times.  We took the long ride with Michael by locking our gaze on him, enjoying his music and buying his product.  That’s the point of effective branding, after all.

Michael’s collection of outfits can currently be seen in a special display at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles. To see Michael Jackson and Bubbles, by Jeff Koons, visit the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (LACMA)  Warhol’s Jackson is currently for sale starting at $800,000 at the Vered Gallery in Long Island, NY.

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Artistic Reality

July 8, 2009 at 11:59 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Reality TV meets fine art in Bravo's upcoming American Artist.

Reality TV meets fine art in Bravo’s upcoming “American Artist.”

I have been thinking about the new Bravo reality show American Artist, especially now that casting calls are taking place this month (in LA at Laxart and in New York at Whitecolumns   I can’t yet decide if that thrills me or depresses me.  I have heard the laments from acting friends about how reality shows have cost them jobs and now I wonder if the same will happen with an art reality show.  Will we be seeing the art equivalent of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” as our new Picassos?

I am equally concerned that the show will take a group of young artists who need to make money, exploit them for television, and then toss them aside when they are done.  Unlike other reality shows, I’m not sure that a contemporary artist will have an easy TV afterlife.  As it is, artists who have built careers for years and are established with galleries aren’t selling art.

The whole concept of an art reality show seems odd.  I picture a group of artists bunched up in a large studio hurrying to finish their masterpieces, while some “art judge” hovers over dropping snide comments like “are you sure you want to put that there?”  Hopefully the creators have a better grip on the concept than what  I’ve currently seen on TV. But contemporary art, unlike food or fashion, has a few variables that make it not quite ready for prime time:  it takes a lot of time to produce, it is drastically more subjective than even fashion and if you set parameters for it, you defeat its purpose.

One thing that could happen is that the show will expose the great wealth of unknown talent that is hiding all over the country.  If tv viewers get to see just a fraction of the talent that most of us in this industry see that will be a great thing for the arts.  Hopefully, it will spur sales and support for galleries and museums, and fine art in general.

Bottom line, artists across the country need to be working.  As we hear more about this new show, I hope there will be information about what happens after the lights go out.  Unlike Top Chef, where the contestants could easily get jobs in restaurants after their exposure, the next step for artists won’t be so obvious.  There will need to be interested galleries, corporate sponsors or creative agencies willing to look at the work and extrapolate from it ideas that will have applications in profitable areas. I just don’t see that happening.  I see more exploitation and the potential for copyright abuse.

If you are an interested artist, here is the casting information from Bravo:

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Props to Prius

July 5, 2009 at 2:39 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

priusWhen i saw the new generation Prius commercial i fell madly, deeply in love.  Not only that, I madly, deeply wanted the new version of the car I already — you guessed it — madly, deeply love.  But here’s why.  Toyota could have made any commercial for this car any way they wanted.  They could have done the driving along the road with all the cool angles thing.  They could have hired the best cinematographers to show how beautiful the new car looks, inside and out.  They could have overpowered us with special effects.

Instead, Toyota did what any great marketing company does that has a brand as strong as Prius.  Knowing that the hybrid market is getting ever more competitive, the Prius can’t sit on its laurels.  This means the brand had to take a few chances.  I’m thrilled that the chance they took involved hiring hundreds of artists — dancers, choreographers, costume designers — and had people stand in for the critical environmental element.  Since the spots were called “Harmony” and the Gen III slogan is “Harmony Between Man, Nature and Machine,” the visual brings everything together.

Take a look at the clip on the AdAge blog where it was rated #1 by the Neilsen IAG most liked new ads, May 2009 If you’d like to see more about how the ad was made from a creative standpoint, check out this video on youtube: I love that one of the assistant directors calls the concept “high art.” The commercial has a unique and delicate quality to it and the art aspect was instrumental in capturing the essence of what Prius was looking for.  I cant help but think how many other ways companies can help artists by hiring them for jobs like these.  A meaningful message was created through a collaboration between marketing experts and artistic talent.

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Of NanoLumens Screens and Crunch Pads

July 2, 2009 at 2:19 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

CrunchGear's Crunch Pad

CrunchGear's Crunch Pad

It always amazes me how many similarities there are between fine art and technology.  When I see something as bold and innovative as the yet-to-be-introduced NanoLumens light, flexible LCD screens all I can think of are the many doors this opens for artists.  Can you imagine a video installation  in a museum that literally wraps around corners and moves into another room?  Thin, seemlessly and maintaining the integrity of the artist’s work?  Oh, and it’s energy efficient.

NanoLumens CEO Rick Cope demonstrates the company's thin, light and flexible LCD screens.

NanoLumens CEO Rick Cope demonstrates the company's thin, light and flexible LCD screens.

The same thought went through my head when I saw the new Crunch Pads   While they are still a lot bulkier than I hoped for, I can imagine a time when we will see thin pads that will be small and flexible and able to be incorporated into mixed media art at a reasonable cost.  Or, maybe Crunch Pads will be sold as art.  Thin, wireless video art that can be placed anywhere, moved easily and modified remotely.

Additionally, the companies introducing these products could benefit by partnering with a few fine artists to really make an impact.  Promoting video screens with artists’ work brilliantly flashing on them could do wonders for showing a fuller range of features.  And there are artists who would be willing to create art specifically to make these products look even better.

Technology companies can benefit in ways they haven’t yet explored by partnering with artists, be they graffiti, graphic or other forms of contemporary art.  Sponsorships that include exhibitions, internet promotions, and unique art-based marketing projects can amp up the sales of these products and broaden the demographic.

So far, the packaging i’ve seen for the Crunch Pad is fairly unimpressive. Imagine what artists could do to make not just the packaging but the product itself much more appealing.  I would love to see special editions sold at local electronic stores to support local artists.  These could be turned into events that could be hosted by the manufacturer and the distributor, like a Best Buy, Fry’s CompUSA

Packaging for the new Crunch Pad.

Packaging for the new Crunch Pad.

All said, the arts are powerful.  I hope to see these companies integrate creative art ideas into their marketing plans.

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In the Spirit of Threadless

July 1, 2009 at 8:59 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Threadless T's.

Threadless T's.

For years i’ve bought t-shirts from a company called Threadless. There is something so special about what they do and while I know many others are doing similar things, I like how this company has established itself as a true arts supporter.

The company is open to any artist interested in submitting a design.  If there is one beef i have about the art world it’s the lack of fairness.  Threadless solves that problem within its unique category of art  by having open submissions and contests.  But it is so much more.

In past blogs I have talked about support for the arts at a grassroots level.  Threadless is the model program in this respect.  It is set up to do as many things as possible to help new talent.  Here are some of the support options they offer:  an artists’ resource section, a massive blogger community, contests with cash prizes, a scholarship program, design challenges and art education tie-ins.  It encourages artists to promote their designs so they will make more money in reprint orders. That’s good stuff.

My favorite section is “Threadspotting,” where fans send in pics of famous people wearing Threadless t’s.

Threadless finds other  applications for the art, like putting it on a skateboard deck and selling limited editions with a portion of each sale going to charity.

This is the ideal arts marketing company.  They just do everything right — publicity, creativity, community involvement, social media marketing, philanthropy.

Any company in any line of business could learn a lot from Threadless.  They know how to appeal to their audience, keep them interested and involved and make them part of the conversation.  This is especially hard for a company that deals in art and fashion.

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The Art of the Graphic Novel

June 30, 2009 at 2:06 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

"John Blank Must Die," the first graphic novel published on Facebook.

"John Blank Must Die," the first graphic novel marketed via Facebook.

Truth be told, I’m not a fan of graphic novels.  But a tweet came my way a month ago that caught my attention.  Make that many tweets.  And many Facebook announcements.  The tweet announced the first graphic novel promoted entirely on Facebook.  That sounded pretty cool.  So I became a follower and checked out the Facebook page.  All you could read in the initial phase were a few pages.  For me, that’s all it took.  I was hooked.

John Blank Must Die caught me off guard, mostly by its haunting, stunning visuals.  Unlike the other popular graphic novels that I’ve picked up to read, most notably, Watchmen,, this one had a much more appealing look.  It’s also a compelling, intricate, intelligent story.  The novel is accompanied by a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat original soundtrack as an added bonus.    I was so impressed with the art and story i tracked down the duo behind these shenanigans — Ian LeWinter and Don Richmond.

The real story behind John Blank Must Die is how these two guys have used social media marketing to spread the work and create an audience for their book.  As of July 2009, there are 15,700 followers on Twitter, 600 on the Blank blog and 250 Facebook fans representing 58 countries.  Oh, and the marketing of Blank started a mere 9 weeks ago.

I’m in the business of helping artists like Ian and Don thrive so I am thrilled to say I have added them as clients.  My job now is to find them a sponsor who will take them to new heights.  What they offer a sponsor is a ready made demographic.  If you like art, graphics, comics, technology, violence, mysticism, mythology, literature, you will love Blank.  It’s fun, sophisticated, hip and clever.

The entire look of Blank — the strong, bold graphics coupled with the incredible story and soundtrack — makes for an artistic masterpiece.  This is another testament to how quality art can boost a marketing effort.  I am convinced a sponsor will be found shortly and John Blank Must Die will become a hugely popular enterprise.

To become a Blank fan visit the Facebook page or their blog

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Pop Culture in Notting Hill

June 28, 2009 at 2:14 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

Speedy Alka-Seltzer

Speedy Alka-Seltzer

What’s in a brand?  Everything.  I for one have had a long-time love affair with the many iconic images created by clever marketing people in conjunction with their masterful art directors to support a brand.  These images work their way into our culture and many times become a part of the permanent landscape.  Some might seem silly (think Speedy Alka-Seltzer) and others more poignant (the Nike swoosh), but either way they communicate visually and with lasting results.

The Nike swoosh.

The Nike swoosh.

Pop art was built on the notion that elements in our culture tell us who we are, that what we consume defines us.  No other work signified this more than Andy Warhols’ 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans.  In fact, these paintings marked the start of what would come to be called the Pop Art Movement.  I don’t know if I would have found Warhol’s art more appealing than a Rothko at the time, but eventually, that’s the way the trend turned.

I was interested to find out that there is a Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in Notting Hill.   I can’t imagine a better place for contemporary artists to draw inspiration.  I’m also glad that there is recognition given to the talents of the many who mastered the skill of creative marketing.   As the museum’s website says, it’s a celebration of our consumer culture.

We leave a lot of the chronicling of life to artists.  They are there to capture and to foresee what we are and what we are becoming in ways that we are unable.  They spot iconic images and make images iconic.  Support for the Museum of Brands is support for cultural sustenance.  Do what you can to help.

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All Art is Local

June 23, 2009 at 2:50 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

“The Living Waters,” by Ruth Weisberg

“The Living Waters,” by Ruth Weisberg

There are amazing things happening at galleries these days.  Not long ago I took a friend to see the Ruth Weisberg exhibit at the Jack Rutberg Gallery in Los Angeles and had a truly unique evening.  The friend I took was a young woman who was debating what to do with her career.  A college student, she knew her life would end up in some creative venture.  When she had the opportunity to see the artist talk about her work and to experience  an evening beautifully planned by the gallery that paired the exhibit with Theater of Note, it made a profound impact.

For me, it confirmed once again, how much fine art can speak to us.  Today, with such drastic financial challenges, it is great to see galleries getting as creative as their fare.  Planning evenings that inspire and engage is a sure way to keep people returning.  Of the many gallery events I have been to over the past few months, this is the one i am still talking about.  It is also the gallery i keep checking to see what’s happening next.

As more and more galleries do this, it will do wonders for the artists whose work needs the exposure.  But the reason for all this gallery promoting is because I want to encourage people to think of more ways to support fine art in their communities.  Culture in the neighborhood is such an important aspect of urban development and success.  In Los Angeles there is a unique geographical challenge, one that requires more support than most cities.  “Local” for LA might mean a drive across town to see an exhibit in Culver City, Santa Monica or Downtown.  Our art community spreads as far as Pasadena, Orange County, Santa Barbara and Laguna.

Like politics, support for the arts is a local issue.  Get out to some of these exhibits — even if they are a bit of a drive — and take a friend with you.  You never know the impact it will have.

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A Museum by Any Other Name

June 20, 2009 at 5:21 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Absolut Vodka ad campaign

George Rodrigue ad for Absolut Vodka

I had a conversation with a fairly well established art expert in Los Angeles concerning my company and its efforts to help artists gain exposure through corporate sponsorships. Part of what we talked about was circumventing the established art route, or at least adding to it by increasing an artist’s awareness through other avenues. At some point during the conversation this man said: if that is how art will be chosen in the future, can you imagine what we will start to see in museums?  I couldn’t stop thinking about that idea. What would museums look like if there were other influences that came to play on the collections of art?

For one thing, we would finally start to see full expressions of graffiti art on canvas, creatively displayed and historically categorized. Simultaneously, a lot of overly trendy art might fall by the wayside and painters of quality would be in fashion again. The options seemed wide open and kind of fascinating. And why not? Why shouldn’t there be a more open way for art to flourish?

Since art is totally subjective, who is to say that the artists we have been revering (for the last century, especially) need to be such an exclusive group? For all of modernity and beyond, the selection of art has been manipulated to benefit a select group of collectors. That’s not to say these artists aren’t great. They’re not just as great as the prices they demand.  Lower-priced art would allow more artists into the game.
If all this sounds familiar, it is. The manipulation of the art market is akin to the manipulation of our economy. If the bottom falls out of the art market, you can be sure the major players will walk away unscathed. In the meantime, a lot of mediocre art enters the market at grossly inflated prices. But none of this is news.  It’s just great marketing.  Not necessarily great art.

Roy Lichtenstein's 1977 320i BMW art car

Roy Lichtenstein's 1977 320i BMW art car

An answer to this strange manipulation of our culture is for a new batch of forward-thinking companies, organizations, and investors to get seriously involved in the arts. This is not a new concept. Many companies have embraced the arts before, albeit relying on fairly famous artists.  BMW used art to market its cars for years  In the late 1980s an aggressive and bold Absolut Vodka working with TBWA advertising commissioned artists like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring to do their own interpretation of the Absolut bottle. Thinking like this helped the company realize growth of 14,900% from 1980-1995.  The company’s “In an Absolut World” now welcomes unknown artists to submit their work via its website.  Today, Red Bull, Apple, Blue Shield of California and others all see the benefits of incorporating fine art into their brand campaigns. At the same time, these companies are reviving culture by making it possible for more artists with more unique perspectives to flourish.

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