Tag Archives: art

A Closer Look: Jasper Johns

Just in time for the 4th of July weekend, I want to introduce you to an artist with southern roots that everyone should get to know.  Jasper Johns is an artist who was born in Georgia, raised in South Carolina, and rose to fame as one of the most important American Painters of the 20th century.  Take a look at one of his most famous works: Flag from 1954.

With Jasper Johns, things are not always as they seem.  He used the flag in order to comment on flatness in modern painting, and used dense brushwork to imitate the strokes of Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock, although in a controlled and deliberate manner.  Here’s a closer look at the above painting, which shows his use of encaustic (wax mixed with pigment):

It has also been suggested that the flag is a sort of autobiographical reference, referring to Johns’ time in the military, or the Revolutionary war hero after which he was named.

Johns’ breakthrough move was to adopt popular iconography in painting, paving the way for pop artists like Andy Warhol.

Take a closer look at Jasper Johns’ work and see what it means to you…


Have a Happy 4th!




A Closer Look: Isa Genzken

Isa Genzken is a German artist who combines the bric-a-brac of everyday life to create unusual sculptures that shock and amaze.  Sometimes her work looks more like a pile of garbage than a sculpture.    But take a closer look, and you’ll see poetic arrangements of  color and texture balancing in space.  Her work has been aptly described as “contemporary ruins.”  Take a closer look:

Genzken’s work seems to warn us against taking ourselves too seriously, combining carefully-composed arrangements with a playful sense of humor.  Through this process, she creates inventive works that never cease to surprise me, and that’s why she’s one of my favorite artists.




A Closer Look: A Walking Tour of Philadelphia

While in Philadelphia for Light Fair International, Judy and I took a quick walking tour of Center City.  It’s amazing how many beautiful examples of architecture can be found just steps from the Convention Center located at 13th and Market.  You can do the whole circuit in about a half hour.

We began by walking west from the convention center to Broad Street, where we caught a glimpse of two of Philly’s most handsome buildings – the Masonic Temple (left) and City Hall (right).  Completed in 1901, City Hall is an excellent example of the Second Empire style.  It was Philadelphia’s tallest building until 1987, and it is still the tallest and largest all-masonry building in the world.

We also walked by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art building, designed by Frank Furness.  Built in the Vicotrian Gothic style, this building is a masteripiece of architectural ornament.

We also saw saw great examples of public artwork very close to City Hall, including impressive sculptures by Claes Oldenburg and Jacques Lipchitz.  The nearby Fabric Workshop and Museum houses cutting-edge contemporary art shows and is also worth a visit.

Our final stop was the PSFS building (now the Loews Hotel), built in 1932.  It is said to be the world’s first skycraper built in the International Style of Modernism.  Filled with fine examples of marble from around the world, Judy and I marveled at it’s beautiful interiors.  But one of the building’s custom Cartier clocks told us it was lunch time, so we descended to the first floor and ate lunch at the hotel’s restaurant – Sole Food.

Finally, we headed back to the Convention Center, which itself is an architectural landmark.  Originally the Reading Terminal Train Station, the building also houses many restaurants and food markets on the first floor.  It’s a great place to grab a quick lunch.


A Closer Look: 30 Americans

The North Carolina Museum of Art is a fantastic museum.  I’ve already written about the new wing and what a perfect place it is for art.  But through September, you’ll find some of the best surprises in the old wing, as part of the show 30 Americans.  The 75 works in this show were pulled from the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, and represent a sampling of some of the best American Art from the past 4 decades.  All of the artists in the show are African American, and their work often addresses issues of identity and race.  There are so many beautiful and interesting pieces, that it’s hard to choose favorites – but I’ll try:  Highlights for me included the following works by Wangechi Mutu, Kerry James Marshall, Shinique Smith, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

(above: Wangechi Mutu, Non Je Ne Regrette Rien)

(above: Kerry James Marshall, Souvenir: Composition in Three Parts)

 (above: Shinique Smith, A Bull, A Rose, A Tempest

 (above: Jean Michel-Basquiat, Untitled Self Portrait)

I hope you’ll head to the NCMA to see this show – it’s definitely worth the trip.  30 Americans runs through September 4th – more info at http://www.ncartmuseum.org/


images: Rubell Family Collection

A Closer Look: Heart Felt

Sharon Parker is an artist who works out of Artspace in downtown Raleigh (if you haven’t been there you should really check it out during First Friday!).  She makes vibrantly-colored sculptures and wall-hangings out of handmade felt.  I was amazed to learn that she makes it all from scratch, using raw wool that is worked and dyed to perfection.  I think the results of her labor speak for themselves!



But Felt is not only for artists!  Designers are increasingly using the material in a wide range of projects from headboards to impromptu rugs.  One of the most unique applications can be found in the Fluff Bakery (pictured below), where Lewis Tsurmaki Lewis layered strips of felt on end to create a unique wall covering.

Felt comes in a lot of thicknesses, and in a broad range of colors if you are buying in the thinner range. The basic colors are grey and white, and many have a pleasantly warm, creamy consistency. 

Check out this great chair by Cappellini, executed in purple felt!


And check out this rug by Mary Ann Williams – it must feel amazing underfoot.

 What can you imagine doing with this unique material?


image 1,2,3: by the author

image 4: Lewis Tsurmaki Lewis

image 5&7: Apartment Therapy

image 6: Cappellini

A Closer Look: Modern Art in Traditional Spaces

Opposites attract.  Believe it or not, this can also be true when choosing art for your home.  Modern art can look fantastic in a traditional home.  The key is to carefully place the artwork, making the juxtaposition of styles look intentional and well-considered.   Here are some excellent examples to inspire you:

1. A painting by Joseph Albers hangs above the mantle in a dining room.  I love the pop of color.  Albers was a famous colorist and once taught at North Carolina’s Black Mountain College.

2. A painting by Joan Mitchell, one of my favorite artists, hangs above the couch in a room designed by Peter Marino. 

3.  In this example, a painting by Fernand Leger hangs in a traditional room.

4. Here’s a great example, which was taken from the set of the movie Meet Joe Black – a beautiful Marc Rothko painiting hangs on a paneled wall.  Somehow, it works beautifully!


5. And finally, a cozy scene from a house with a giant canvas on the wall (by Egon Schiele?).

Where can you see modern art in your home?


image 1: Apartment Therapy

image 2, 3: Architectural Digest

image 4: Sweet Sunday Mornings

image 5: Traditional Home

A Closer Look: Art in Science

I recently spent some time at the archives of NC State University searching for art to adorn the walls of the new Chancellor’s house.  The University has a rich history in science, and many of the images I found were made for scientific purposes.  Although they weren’t always intended as art, I was pleased to find that many of them could look beautiful as decorative pieces.

Above is an image by B.W. Wells (1884-1974), a naturalist who created hand-colored glass slides to aid in scientific presentations.  NC State has a large archive of his work online.

One of the classic examples of scientific illustration are prints of birds by John James Audubon, like the one above found in his book Birds Of America.  Below: a framed Audubon print adds interest to a paneled room.


Similar in aim to Audubon’s work and even more colorful, are illustrations like this one by E.A. Seguy.  His book on Butterflies, Papillions,  can be found in the NC State archives.

NC State’s website also features a series called “Inside Wood” featuring microscope images of wood fibers – these bold, textured images would look perfect as large-scale black and white prints.

Every year, Princeton University hosts a contest for the best “Art of Science.”  Here’s last year’s winner, a photo of a Plasma Accelerator:


Scientific images are a source for artwork that can be refreshing and beautiful.  Can you see it on your walls?


image 1, 4, & 5: NCState Archives

image 2: Telegraph UK

image 6: Princeton Art of Science Competition

A Closer Look: Your Art Collection

Deciding on the right art for your home can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.  Here are 6 tips to get you started.

1. Buy art because you like it, not because it goes with your curtains.  Art is an investment, so make sure you will enjoy looking at it for a long time to come.  I would never get tired of looking at the excellent painting below by Joan Mitchell.

2. You can never have enough art.  If the walls fill up, put some pieces in storage.  Rotate the work you show on your walls, changing it out as little as twice a year or with the changing seasons.

3.  Don’t worry about making all of your artwork “match” in style, size, or media.  Often, the best displays of artwork are made from interesting and varied collections.


 4. Develop your eye!  Visit museums, spend time in galleries, and read about art.  Seeing the best art possible will help you develop an eye for what you like.  Eventually, you can build a personal style that will shape your collection.   An excellent source for learning about current art is the Oxford History of Art Series.

5. Decide how much you like a piece before you see the price tag.  Good art is not always expensive.  Expensive art is not always good.  Often, work by a street artist or child can hold its own next to a painting by a modern master.  The picture below was made by Chicago street artist Lee Godie

6. And finally – keep an open mind!  You might be surprised by what you like if you look closely.

Good luck!


credits: image 1; image 2; image 3; image 4; image 5.

A Closer Look: Ashylnn Browning at First Friday

What are you doing next Friday?  Why not check out First Friday in Raleigh?  It’s a great opportunity to see art, hear music, and enjoy food in downtown Raleigh.  For me, art is always at the heart of the event.  One of the most traveled spots on the circuit is Artspace, a large industrial building filled with artists who open their studios to the public.  It’s a big space, and there is more than enough art to overwhelm you.  But for me, there are two artists who really stand out from the crowd, and always make the visit worthwhile.  One of them is a talented painter named Ashylnn Browning (I’ll talk about the other artist next month!). 

 Design Lines Ltd artwork by ashylnn browning hot and pink oil on panel

Browning is currently working on a series of paintings that, in her words “create a hybrid of geometric forms and intuitive process.”   It looks as if she took Buckminster Fuller’s famous geodesic domes and warped them into dream-like versions of themselves, then plopped them into a surreal landscape.  For Browning, the result of this approach is a body of work that is easy to love, with beautiful colors and striking compositions.  

Design Lines Ltd artwork by ashylnn browning muddled clarity oil on panel 

In one of my favorite paintings by the artist (below), I like how the gray paint around the edges seems to intrude on the center of the painting, leaving us with only a glimpse into its dense inner-workings.  It is as if the painting is hiding a secret that can never be fully revealed.    Many of her other paintings have similar psychological undertones, and I always enjoy discovering something human amidst their imperfect geometry.

Design Lines Ltd artwork by ashylnn browning braced oil on canvas painting

Raleigh’s First Friday is next week, so check it out!  And be sure to visit Ashylnn Browning’s studio in Artspace – located in Studio 109, 201 E Davie Street, Raleigh, NC 27601.

For more information you can visit First Friday’s Official Website and Ashlynn Browning’s Website.


A Closer Look: Jeremy Kerman At Craven Allen Gallery

Art inspires the way we live, see and understand the world.  It certainly inspires the work we do at Design Lines so much so, that Rob has created a  new blog series called “A Closer Look.” Every Friday he will take you a journey through art, design, and the intersection of the two. So take it away Rob!

Design Lines Ltd. Craven Art Gallery Jeremy Kerman

Last week, I was excited to see Jeremy Kerman’s show “Find myself a City to Live In” at Craven Allen Gallery in Durham.  I originally saw his collage paintings in Watt’s Grocery, a restaurant just a few doors away, and I was immediately hooked.   Using scraps of photos and paint on paper, he casts local Durham landmarks in a new light.  

Design Lines Ltd. Craven Art Gallery Jeremy Kerman 2

Worked over surfaces, hastily joined paper, and a fanciful juxtaposition of scales give these paintings the feeling that they were created intuitively, despite the artist’s formal education in art.  It is this freshness and honesty that draws me to Kerman’s work.  But what keeps me interested are the fascinating urban spaces he creates within – places that are as familiar as they are fanciful.  Can you recognize any of them?

Jeremy Kerman’s work is up through the end of the month.  Craven Allen Gallery is located at 1106½ Broad Street in Durham, North Carolina.  (919) 286-4837


images: Craven Allen Gallery

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