Yuko Shimizu is an award winning, extremely prolific illustrator based out of New York. Yuko brings an extremely unique presence to the illustration community, combining modern aspects while still honouring her Japanese heritage by paying tribute to Ukioy-e.
Shimizu executes a style that can be defined as the epitome of a modern tribute. Often depicting modern women in a traditional style, Shimizu has featured all the way from samurais, to mid 20th century swimmers, to female electric guitar playing rockstars. She consistently is able to redefine illustration in her own way, raising her own bar with each piece while simultaneoulsy besting it each time.
Shimizu teaches her own illustration courses and has been the keynote speaker at countless conferences and events. Her popularity, unlike many other modern illustrators, was built before her presence on social media. Yuko has recently worked for Tourism Japan, Spectrum 25, the Grateful Dead, and many other iconic companies.
Her most recent popular work, a record jacket for the grateful dead, features two interpretations of their classic Singles collection.
One of the largest reasons Yuko maintains relevancy online is not only her popular projects, but because of her unique solutions, flawless execution, and most importantly, the presence of her process on her profile. Yuko ensures that each finished product is accompanied by thumbnails, progress shots, redos, and finally a delivered illustration.
In conclusion, Yuko Shimizu is a revolutionary illustrator who manages to progress the art form while adding a modern twist. She (and yes, she, a woman who has managed to build a huge reputation in a male dominated sphere) continues to innovate on traditional Japanese art while appealing to a mainstream international audience.
Kitaj was an American born artist from Cleveland Ohio. He would go on to study at the Vienna Acadamey of Art. Kitaj would go on to study at many artistic institutions, including the Royal College of Art and the Ruskin School.
Kitaj’s style is one that could be defined as “polarizing” to say the least. The general public may have viewed his work as naive, rough, or even unfinished, and they’re not completely wrong in saying that. Kitajs work do resemble underpaintings, but their conditions serve great purpose. The seemingly ragged images exemplify moments in their entirety; capturing the emotion of a instant. He captures what it’s like to really take in your surroundings, where you can only fully interpret parts in full and others with fleeting ability.
“The Man on the Ceiling,” 1989
“His more complex compositions build on his line work using a montage practice, which he called ‘agitational usage’. Kitaj often depicts disorienting landscapes and impossible 3D constructions, with exaggerated and pliable human forms. He often assumes a detached outsider point of view, in conflict with dominant historical narratives.”
“Juan De La Cruz”
Kitaj credited his influence to British pop artists, his work resembling collages in their busy and overlapping nature.
“Allusions to political history, art, literature and Jewish identity often recur in his work, mixed together on one canvas to produce a collage effect.” ~Wikipedia.com
“The Psychopathology of Every Day Life”
Kitaj lived an interesting personal life as a Russo Jewish artist living in the states. Growing up in the WW2 and post war period, there would have been undeniable tensions. He would spend the majority of his life in England and as a merchant seaman in Norway in his teenage years. His first wife would commit suicide in 1969, but would remarry in 1994 in her 40s. Needless to say, in the way of being a “tortured artist,” Kitaj had plenty of material to draw on. He died in 2007, and the coroner would declare the cause as death by suffocation, stating that the artist had suffocated him with a plastic bag over his head.
“The Oak Tree”
In light of his legacy, Kitaj is known as one of the world’s leading draftsmen, often being compared to Edgar Degas. He was taught draughtsmanship by a 3rd generation pupil of Degas, which would explain the resemblance.
His style and ability is greatest exemplified by his masterpiece “Autumn of Central Paris”, resembling a semi cubist interpretation of a cafe, showcasing his unique interpretation of distorted figures and settings.
“Self-Portrait After Rembrandt’s Last Self-Portrait” (2004)
Klein next to his one of his large scale pieces
When discussing the wide array of variety that is abstract exoressionism, Franz Klein is an important yet complicated character. One might say that he is the epitome of the genre— with his bold, semi brutalist brushstrokes. On the other hand, another might add that he is not like his counterparts, and creates a category of his own, standing apart from the abstract community entirely.
Klein is most well known for his black and white pieces that have oddly enough been linked to the New York skyline. It definitely takes an eye of an artist to see this in his work. His work is bold, and the definition of conceptual. An average onlooker would not be incorrect if they were to exclaim, “Well I could have done that. Throw some black paint on a canvas and anyone can be an artist.”
“Orange and Black Wall”
But you see, that statement in itself is what gives Klein’s work its captivating quality, its deep and unyielding sense of mystique. The thing is, is that truly, anyone could have created Klein’s pieces, but they didn’t. Simple as they may be, the works are a departure from the though out pop art of the 40’s and 50’s, and even the abstract expressionism of his fellow counterparts, Klein truly put emotion on to a page. His work appears to be the visual representation of instinct, energy, and much more.
Klein starred his artistic career as a realist, as many do, coming from a strict academic background. His moving to New York, a newly deemed cultural hub for activity and outrageous personalities, influenced him to convert to pure abstraction. He was particularly influenced by Willem de Kooning. This change served him well, as he received international praise for his simplistic yet immensely bold pieces.
Klein also sets himself apart from the expressionists, claiming that his work is less so an expression of himself rather than a way to “physically engage the viewer.” To put it simply—Klein was not one for hidden meaning or whimsical artistic influence. As stated by theartstory.com, Klein’s “powerful forms of his motifs, and their impression of velocity, were intended to translate into an experience of structure and presence which the viewer could almost palpably feel.” The absence of secret meaning in his work would later go on to influence the minimalists of the 20th century as well.
On a more personal note, it took some effort to come around to abstract expressionism and pop art. For the most part, I must say it’s not for me, and when searching for artists to work on this week I was struggling to find one that captivated my attention. When I came across Klein though, I was fascinated. How bold and defiant and new his work seems! Even today, when we as the audience have unlimited access to all different types of art, his work seems refreshing. I will always have respect for those who simply follow their minds eye. I find myself especially partial to Klein’s work because of its lack of meaning or symbolism. I love that the pieces are there to simply see and feel, not to contemplate and fret over. Additionally, I respect the expert composition his pierces feature, seeming effortless in nature.
Gorge Improvisation, Oil on Canvas
Wassily Kandinsky, a native of Russia, sits in a rare position among Matisse and Munch under the labels of “‘Fathers of Modern Art.” Similarily, Kandinsky is often hailed as “The Painter of Sound and Vision.” He is most known for his “Composition” series, where he expertly explores the idea of complex abstract symbolism and as it’s name suggests, compositional elements that were unheard of before his time. Although labelled as an expressionist, several pieces of his can also be applied to the genre of fauvism. However, it would be wisest to say that Kandinsky creates his own category of revolutionary abstraction.
“Cossacks,” oil on on canvas
Kandinsky waited until his thirties to become an artist. Perhaps it is for this reason that his art defies all historical guidelines; that he branches out into unfamiliar territory fearlessly and without mind for critic opinion. He was inspired by the creations of Claude Monet. His love of forward moving ideas eventually would gain him a career at the Bauhaus, a school of art and design that valued morals like “form follows function,” and produced many interesting and modern-looking pieces of work, ranging from furniture to appliances to pieces of design and art.
“Color study, squares with concentric circles”
I keep using the word “revolutionary” when referring to Kandinsky’s work, and that is not without great cause. Many sources attribute him as not only one of the Fathers of Modern art, as mentioned earlier, but as the sole Father of Abstract. Notablebiographies.com describes him as many others do, stating:
“Kandinsky is still greatly admired today for his own paintings and for being the originator of abstract art. He invented a language of abstract forms with which he replaced the forms of nature. He wanted to mirror the universe in his own visionary world. He felt that painting possessed the same power as music and that sign, line, and color ought to correspond to the vibrations of the human soul.”
“The Houses at Murnau”These may seem like bold claims, but Kandinsky does not fall short of his modern legacy. His outstanding use of color and line, his overwhelming yet harmonious compositions, and his unmatched ability for translating indescribable phenomenons and feelings into a visual manifestation without a doubt earn him the hundreds of heroic titles attributed to him.
“Kandinsky viewed non-objective, abstract art as the ideal visual mode to express the “inner necessity” of the artist and to convey universal human emotions and ideas. He viewed himself as a prophet whose mission was to share this ideal with the world for the betterment of society.”
However, regardless of his famous modern day reputation people regarded the expressionists as a whole as illegitimate artists, and their success was often owed to only a handful of people that believed in them. This could certainly be said of the Bauhaus for Kandinsky. He would go on to inspire the students of the Bauhaus before their dismissal during World War 2, as well as the entire generation of Abstract Expressionists that arose in the post war period.
Composistion IX, 1936https://www.notablebiographies.com/Jo-Ki/Kandinsky-Wassily.html
“My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined.”
~ Odilon Redon
Odilon Redon, a frenchman, stands alone in the artistic community in his unique use of his historic inspiration and innovative immagination. He combines the brushwork of his contemporaries, the Pre-impressionists with the previous influences of the great Baroque and Rococo masters. Redon’s work is an odd combination of Francisco Goya’s otherworldly imagination and Turners’s aggressive layers of brushwork and color. Other pieces, however, maintain the simplicity of Ukio-e, while his religious interpretations compare to no other. He was a creative that the artistic audience seldom experiences, mixing the real world into the depths of his imagination; the product being a surreal journey through his psyche. Redon heavily employed symbolism, and his paintings contained complex meanings that are still debated and pondered over.
“Muse on Pegasus”
“Redon’s work represents an exploration of his internal feelings and psyche. He himself wanted to “place the visible at the service of the invisible”; thus, although his work seems filled with strange beings and grotesque dichotomies, his aim was to represent pictorially the ghosts of his own mind.”
Redon was native to Bordeaux, France, and had always been entwined with the arts. From the times of grade school he was recognized for his innate ability for draftsmanship. He would later join the war. Upon Redon’s return, his reputation would lay dormant for a number of years. It was an appearance in a novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans, titles “Against Nature” that thrust Redon into the public eye. Oddly enough, Redon was celebrated within the artistic community and would recieve the Legion of Honor in 1903. Acceptance and support was an extreme luxury for him, as many of his contemporaries were heavily criticized to the point of public rejection.
Redon did many works under this title, ranging in topics, composition, and subject matter.
“Christ and his Disciples”
I myself harbor a love for all things odd and strange, that defy category and speak volumes on their subject regardless of their given context, and Redon does exactly this for me. His work ranges from extremely complex to the simplest of color palettes and subject matter, and I cannot help but appreciate such a versatile artist. Apparition is an excellent example of how Redon molded the real world (recognizable figures like the butterflies and two figures on the right) combine with abstract shapes of his own mind.For myself, his art almost works as a precursor for surrealism, one of my favorite times in art history. I adore his use of colors and textures, and his religious works resonate deeply with me. This is hard to achieve with me, as I have no religious interest or background, but Redon’s renditions of the Biblical features (featured above) seem real for the first time. (Yes, this includes Caravaggio’s Jesus, even Grunewald’s Madonnas. I suppose Redon is the first one to make them seem flawed, raw, and emotional, rather than stagnant and completely void of sin, like real people are.)