Okay class, settle down. Let’s get started.
Welcome to Art Appreciation 101 – An Introduction to Preschooler Art. Today we will be looking at “mixed- and multi-medium expressionism,” an exploration of the many and varied artistic approaches that can be undertaken by a single artist. Our case study for this session will be the young, upcoming artist Grace Rempe.
For starters, we need to acknowledge that Ms. Rempe’s art is quite controversial in certain circles. Some critics have argued that many of her pieces (or, “projects,” as Grace likes to call them) consist solely of small objects taped or glued to pieces of paper or slightly larger objects. Others have claimed that her art is acquired taste which is somewhat obtuse and hard to digest. (Her younger brother Samuel is among these critics, having tasted and attempted to digest several of the artist’s works in the past.)
I would posit, however, that such analysis fails to take into account the subtleties of Ms. Rempe’s work. Imbedded in her work is a celebration of the ordinary – an exaltation of the mundane. In it, Grace displays the beauty implicit in everyday objects, and does so in a way that challenges societal conceptions of attractiveness and desirability.
Let’s examine a number of the artist’s works more closely.
Slide number one is an early untitled piece. Here, the artist issues a statement on conformity and segregation in an abstract, geometrical style borrowing from the art deco tradition. Lines are straight and unyielding, yet the bleeding colors indicate the inability to restrain creativity, stretching beyond the intended confinement to other elements. One can almost sense the tension as the cool blue, green, purple, and gray colors reach beyond their borders toward the more dangerous reds, oranges, and pinks. Even at an early age, the artist is showing a willingness to challenge authority and upset cultural norms – themes that recur in the artist’s later work.
Slide two is a more realistic piece, drawing from both the impressionistic landscapes of Claude Monet and the primitivism of Paul Klee. Entitled, “Sunrise over Water and Grass,” it is optimistic, painted in bold colors to show the enthusiasm and joie de vivre that comes with being four years old. It is an inviting piece, beckoning the viewer to come and sit next to the stream and soak in the sun’s warming rays. However, there remains a certain element of joyous uncertainty with the water, with just enough waves and eddys to hint at adventures to come as it flows beyond the edges of the painting.
A similarly themed project is Grace’s “Birthday Cake.” While the cake itself speaks to celebration and happiness, the fact that there are only three candles (the artist was four at the time of painting) reveals a certain melancholia and/or a fond remembrance of days past. The Trader Joe’s sticker in the bottom left corner not only conveys a sense of commercialism creeping into the simplest moments of childhood, but foreshadows Ms. Rempe’s move toward a more multi-medium approach to her art.
The next two frames are examples of this multimedia approach. The first, “Toilet Paper Roll on Chip Clip,” is one of Ms. Rempe’s more thought-provoking pieces, highlighting the disposable and temporary nature of modern culture. The clip indicates our attempts to hold onto and even present these insignificant cultural infatuations as somehow noteworthy or more timeless than they truly are.
|— Toilet Paper Roll on Chip Clip (l), and Guitar (r), multimedia, early 2014 (Rempe Family Gallery, Virginia)|
The use of a Tupperware container for her work “Guitar” is a heady critique of contemporary music as warmed-over, recycled themes repackaged for mass consumption. The warping of the container indicates the damage done to the original work, while the asymmetrical alignment of the different-colored rubber bands displays the inherent tension between old and new. Plus, as the artist likes to point out, it plays “really pretty music.”
Finally, there are Grace’s current Pop Art stylings. Much like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein before her, Ms. Rempe likes to examine cultural icons through the eyes of modern consumerism. This is evident in her recent series of prints depicting the titular character of the 1970s television program, Wonder Woman. According to the artist, Wonder Woman is “reeeally pretty,” but she also laments that she “should really wear a shirt, shouldn’t she?”
Confident and self-assured, assertive yet feminine, Ms. Rempe’s Wonder Woman is an archetype of modern beauty. And while the classic TV show has long since used up its “15 minutes of fame,” Grace’s Wonder Woman will, like Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe prints, endure forever. Or at least until her next artistic obsession. Such it is for today’s young artists.
There’s the bell. Remember your reading assignments for next week. For the next class, we will be discussing Play-Dough as artistic medium, and the daily bedtime ritual as performance art.