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Charles Norton

born in: Honolulu, HI
lives in: Long Beach
Charles Norton was raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. After graduating from the University of California, San Diego, where he received a degree in Art History and Criticism, he went on to pursue freelance work as a retail visual designer working with an... [more]

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Takashi Murakami

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Legal Case
Louis Vuitton
Limited Edition Prints

Been meaning to get to this story because I think it touches on some important issues regarding art when it comes to the nature of truth and the often overstepped line between art and commerce.


Here's the link to the LA Times story.


http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2009/06/art-fraud-lawsuit-against-louis-vuitton-over-murakami-prints-to-go-forward-judge-rules.html


For those who haven't heard about it, a lawsuit is being brought by a Mr. Clint Arthur in Los Angeles district court against Louis Vuitton over the selling of limited edition prints of Takashi Murakami during his 2007-2008 exhibition at the LA MOCA. 


Within the exhibition Louis Vuitton erected a store where select leathergoods and accessories were sold that were part of the wildly successful line the pairing created.  Limited edition prints were also sold, two of which were purchased by Mr. Arthur at $6000 a piece.  It seems he was a little put out once he got them home and discovered there was no certificate of authenticity and no documentation on how they were created, only a squiggly "M" printed on the back.


It turns out the limited edition prints were remade from the very same silkscreened material used to make the handbags. 


Well Mr. Arthur did a little investigating and found that Louis Vuitton may have violated something called the California Fine Prints Act which provides specific guidelines to dealers selling multiples.


A judge has now given the green light for the case to go forward disregarding Louis Vuitton's argument that the claim is baseless because Mr. Arthur should have known that he was getting handbags remade into expensive prints.  Accessories with the same design were for sale in the same boutique and Murakami is famed for blurring the line between art and commercial products.


I think Louis Vuitton needs to get some better lawyers, because what is stunning in this case is Louis Vuitton's sheepishness and ambiguity in the marketing of these items in their boutique if indeed this connection was a no brainer.


With regard to Mr. Arthur, one could say he is simply looking for his fifteen minutes since Louis Vuitton offered him a full refund and he refused insisting instead to see this through in court.


I don't think Louis Vuitton is wrong for selling the artwork, but at the same time Mr. Arthur is not wrong to ask for some accountability.  Louis Vuitton just maintained the smug facade too long, and it will likely end up being their downfall.  Why not proudly state what the items are?  Did Louis Vuitton think consumers wouldn't buy them without the concocted label.  I don't think it would have made any difference.  People are mad for the stuff.  So why do it? 


What happened here is the art world met the commercial world and things got messy.  In the art world, which I'm defining as the world within the museum walls, it is very easy to discuss the blurring between art and commerce.  It is something abstract, to consider, to debate, to chuckle about, to be influenced by, even be affronted by, but there are no victims.  The dialogue takes place within the confines of the museum FREE of commerce.  Once commerce comes into play the stakes get higher and this is where the art world stumbled into quicksand, because when dollars and cents are involved, the commercial world is far less amused by such discussions. 


In an investment one is looking for certainty.  In art one is looking for questions.  How can the two coexist?  This dispute is a small window into questions about art that have been long debated: Quantifying art with money, the essence of authenticity and the responsibility of advertising.  When the nature of the art is playing fast and loose with authorship and when advertising has become part of the art, expect more lines to be blurred and more lawsuits to be filed. 

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One of the ironies of our time is we live in a world increasingly interconnected yet all too often fractured. The rotating axis of pop culture has sped to the point that newspapers contain no news, only echoes from the internet.  Information and the reaction to it is almost instantaneous and blissfully free of perspective.


Much of this staccato flow of information and superficial fascination has filtered into the paintings being created as well, reflected in the myriad works commenting on America's obsessions with fame, notoriety, voyeurism, and consumerism.  Whether it be harbinger, homage, pledge, dogma or manifesto, the messages are quickly sucked into the spinning tornado of contemporary culture and glimpsed again, if ever, only within the frantic revolutions of the rudderless beast.


It's time we give ourselves a break.  We need to imagine again, to pause, be confused, baffled or left in wonder by what our painters are doing.  Rather than have our fears and condemnations validated by art characterized by its smugness we need painters to pave the way for new thought, to help us conceive the impossible, and show us the future is a carnival not a Carnival Cruise.  We need painters who create ingenious mindscapes who pay homage to their place in the history of art and then up the ante by showing us image-making still has boundaries to be pushed.  These are them...


 



Nathan Redwood's paintings swirl, bubble and engulf the viewer into imagined worlds of surreal expressionism not seen since Philip Guston. He reveals an interest in quotidian objects but energizes them in fantastic fields of melting color that raises the drama to operatic levels. At first glance his work appears highly complex, but in actuality is the result of a virtuosic use of his watered-down medium.  With little overworking he commands the brush like a ball point pen rolling along the surface which has been primed smooth like glass. 


 



Within Julie Rofman's paintings objects are embedded, entangled, wedged, compressed and integrated into larger forms that seem to suspend and coalesce as if by magnetism.  Her reconstructed environments have a foreboding post-apocalyptic feeling while acheiving pure fantasy at the same time.  In Under the Surface of 2008 she juxtaposes past and present architectural achievements, in effect compressing time as well, and showing us the distance between them might as well be the thickness of the waterline.  The imagery, such as in Slingshot Gondola which recalls various works of Duchamp like The Large Glass and Bride, is filled with indescribable contraptions balanced by a center void resulting in a composition that might get one a failing grade in art school.  Instead Rofman passes with flying colors.


 






Chris Finley's obsessive art resembles folds, pinches and weaves in the time-space continuum.  While he does not confine himself only to painting, his works recall the very beginnings of modernism and reset questions of what can still be the direction of contemporary art.  Half inspired by computer graphics and half by modern art fathers Picasso and Duchamp, one might think he's off his rocker for producing work that is so out of touch with the current art market but when you see the fun he's having on this joy ride you can hardly blame him for stealing his parent's car.


 




 


By no means are these all of them.  There's Terry Winters, John Millei, Julie Mehretu and more.  I don't know them all, but I'd like to find them.  If you know of one, please share them.  We need them now more than ever.


“Thanks for the info! Great recommendations.”
Posted over 5 years ago
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Intriguing and insightful.  I turn to passages such as this often for inspiration:


The following excerpt is taken from The Mystical Theology of St. Denis, published in The Cloud of Unknowing and Other Works.  Its author has chosen to remain anonymous but is thought to be a 14th century English priest, probably a Carthusian monk. 


"Here is a man who has a solid block of wood of the largest size.  It is outside himself, lying in front of him, while within himself he has the intention and skill to make an image of the smallest size from that part of the wood which, measured by plumb line, lies in the centre and middle of the block.  While the block is completely whole, the image may exist inside himself through sheer power of imagination, but common sense tells you that before he can manage to see it clearly with the bodily sight of his outward eyes, or reveal it to be seen by others, he must always use his skill and his tools to remove all the outward parts of the wood that surround the image and prevent it from being seen...


...In the divine work of contemplation we must, with the dexterity of grace, skillfully pare completely away this encumbering lump, coagulated in this way out of innumerable unlikenesses, as a powerful hindrance antagonistic to the pure hidden sight of God.  And thus, through the dexterous removal of all these things, brought about by grace, we can praise clearly, beyond understanding, Beauty itself in its own naked, uncreated reality without beginning.  How this can be done is unknown to all except those alone who experience it, and even to them is unknown except while the experience lasts."

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Marcel Duchamp

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When it comes to contemporary art as we know it today, it really begins with Marcel Duchamp.  In 2004, a poll of 500 art experts named Duchamp’s Fountain as the most influential work of modern art beating out Picasso’s Les Desmoiselle d’AvignonHis life and work reflect the dynamic nature of art, the idea that the creative process that goes into a work of art is the most important thing.  The work itself may be made of anything and take any form.   It’s an idea that seems commonplace today.  Nearly a hundred years ago it was revolutionary, literally unthinkable, except to Duchamp.


 


When looking back on his life it appears he danced upon the art world like Roger Federer dances across a tennis court -- so light and effortless, yet certain and forceful with each change of direction.  He seemingly knew the answers to his own questions, but just enjoyed musing about them, being playful, mischievous and paradoxical.  He was an aloof and intellectual rebel before being a rebel became the style it was designed to circumvent.   Duchamp’s art anticipated a rational crisis between aesthetic hierarchies as well as those within society we are still grappling with today.   Indeed, Duchamp is so present in art he is like a pigment, a piece of marble or lump of clay – a building block other artists use to elevate their own work.


 


Among the many things he is known for, perhaps one of the least discussed is the coining of the term, infrathin (also known as inframince).   Duchamp often said this term for the all but imperceptible difference between two seemingly identical items was impossible to define, “one can only give examples of it.”   That has not stopped others from trying.  The philosopher Hector Obalk has sought to distinguish infrathin in three ways.  In the first infrathin describes an infinitesimal thickness – the thickness of an atom for example.  The second notion of infrathin characterizes a difference you can easily imagine but does not exist like the thickness of a shadow.  The third notion qualifies a distance or difference you cannot perceive but only imagine such as the separation between the bang of a gun near an observer and the mark of the bullet on the target some distance away.


 


I used the Federer comparison earlier because the sport of tennis itself contains wonderful examples of infrathin.  It is a fully modern sport that crowns victors by truly atomic margins.  A winner, for instance, can be derived while both players may have won the same number of points.  A player may never lose his or her serve yet still lose the match.  And a Duchampist's favorite, a hit ball’s state of being in or out is based on whether the ball has touched any part of the line.  This has come to be determined in recent years by the use of an array of highly tuned cameras to achieve greater accuracy. For in today's incarnation of the sport the balls travel at such a rate it is as if the players were firing pistols at the lines.  Combine this with the notion that the mere nap of the ball gently caressing the precipice of the line should be awarded with two hands down, and the determination is so blurringly imperceptible as to be delightfully absurd.


 


What does this hold for artists?  The indefinable is an artist’s playground, the imperceptible a gauntlet thrown down.  Artists shine light where none existed, artists engage the laws of the physical world to expand knowledge of the metaphysical.  As artists we all attempt to decipher the infrathin for pleasure, for enlightenment and for beauty.  It is a metaphor for the acute nature of experience.  In college I was a student of Allan Kaprow’s, another artist known for his playfulness.  He said the greatest responsibility we have is to pay attention to the lives we lead.  In the coming days and weeks in this blog I will seek to shine a light other artists who are paying attention and we’ll see what we can define and what we can perceive.


 

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posted on 06.11.09

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Is Pop Art dead?  The recent popularity of the street artist-turned-art darling KAWS has led me to wonder how many more artists can blur the line between art and commerce before the line is meaningless?


This tango between art and commerce has been fertile ground for decades.  Marcel Duchamp may have done it first with his readymades, Jasper Johns carried on with his paintings of known symbols such as numbers, targets, the flag, the map of the U.S. etc, Andy Warhol captured the imagination of a broad audience by combining what the artist created with the personality of the artist, and Jeff Koons may have perfected Pop, synthesizing it until it is now the output of an almost corporate art machine. 


KAWS is disturbing, especially in his latest manifestations, because his work seems so joyless and soulless. I enjoyed his earlier street work because he was mocking the establishment.  Now he is the establishment churning out paintings and products that don't elevate any discussion but merely feed a market for his work.  Today have artists such as KAWS reached a point where they have demolished the line between art and commerce, or have they simply dropped the pretense?

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