There is no shortage of abstract works available on the various print on demand sites; even within the world of “fine art” the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of which works are celebrated can seem rather arbitrary to both those on the ins and outside of the art world. What then is the criteria by which we should judge these works in general or this work specifically? What makes this work worth purchasing or the artist worth supporting?
One of the main questions when looking at an abstract work, specifically a non-objective (not representing any discernable forms) are the context, colors, shapes, and overall composition. Of these ideas the context is usually the most nuanced and often, even among the experts, neglected aspects of an abstract work. Has this been done before/ is this work an expression of a new idea such as the first monochrome painting or the first “happening“. Since Modern art displaced classical art, and to an extant representational art within popular taste the idea and intent of artists, and the context of their formation, has supplanted skill as the metric with which art is judged; at least, that is suppose to be the idea, but does the 100th Rothko or Pollock really expressing anything new? This is all a bit of a tangent, because “Tube’s of wonder” isn’t anything new; it doesn’t pretend to be. The other criteria with which abstract work is to be judges is what ought to be brought to bear upon the design and based on those criteria this design does quite well.
The colors of the work are pleasant- perhaps, Miami/ LA, 90’s, or tropical. The gentles washes of color contrasting nicely with the hard edges of the shapes. The shapes themselves offer interesting easter eggs for those that care to look and suggest: Klimt, Miro, futurism, and horror vacuii in various places. The composition is both tight while managing a loose feel in terms of composition and is again reinforced by the contrast of color and form. Lastly what is interesting about the piece is the use of circles and lines, specifically the fact that if you put a number of circles above a line you will end up with overlapping faces with shifting expressions depending upon how you pair the circles. The image is good at a distance and more interesting and nuanced from up close. It is busy without screaming for attention and still maintains a certain level of harmony overall and for this reason, rather than some context dependent or contextual statement, “tubes of wonder” serves as an excellent example of a (non-objective) abstract work within the context of apparel.
Design by:JettJag Price: $22.88 @ Redbubble Colors: Black, Dark Grey, Dark Blue, Tan, Brown
This design seems to be a cross between the forms and style of Wassily Kandinsky and the bright, somewhat jarring use of colors as pioneered by the Memphis Group; this design isn’t simply a mishmash of the two, rather it’s a near miss at imitation in both cases.
The Pallet is too bright for Kandinsky, the lines are too clean and the use of polka dot, or polka dot used to suggests form as in the ears, would be out of character for the artist. It’s interesting to see contemporary artists borrow from pre-existing styles and ponder how the ease with which digital software can now render patterns/ precise lines and shapes influenced their work. Were some of these processes more labor intensive would they still be in vogue? Would the artist of the past or modernism in general look as crude, as primal as it did pre-1960’s?
Most Decades in western advertisement had their color pallets. The 70’s were more earthy; with yellow, orange, and green being prominent. In the eighties it was bright variations on the primaries, particularly CYM. Moving into the 90’s though the color pallet broadened and intensified. There could be a number of reasons for this, advancement in color technology would be the obvious one. One key difference between This work/ the 90’s and the Memphis Group is that the ladder tried to give the eye somewhere to rest from the jarring colors. There was usually black and white to function as negative space and float the shapes. Where neutrals weren’t employed the pallet would be minimal (3-4 max).
‘Turbo Bunny’ on the other hand is too frenetic in form and color. What makes the design work though is that the design is ultimately sparse. If one were to take the silhouette and imagine the circle to be a gem, and the other main shapes as precious metal there to hold it as in a small pendant. Not every piece of jewelry needs to be a statement piece. If one were to say this in the context of a graphic shirt you’d assume they were talking about subject; in the case of ‘Turbo Bunny’ it’s that the image feels light as a small pendant while remaining substantive.
There’s something interesting about a design, a style, an approach that feels like it shouldn’t work, but ultimately does. Sometimes the surprise of something working that shouldn’t can even elevate the result within our esteem past that of what could be achieved by an established artist.
This design shouldn’t work, it does. Webgrrl’s storefront is scattershot; not in terms of style, but quality. She has managed to produce a number of solid works, such as this design, but there’s a lot of work that feels… sophomoric. When you see a design called “funkifractal” you think: ‘…amateur redbubble artist and someone who doesn’t care’. This image isn’t even a fractal. Most probably she thought that that would be a more searched term than ‘Rorschach’. The Lack of pride in her work, professionalism, or self-awareness should indicate that this is an artist without potential; but that is absolutely not the case.
The image works, and it works in most colors, which isn’t easy. Creating this symmetry with the two red orbs and a red one below while managing to avoid Pareidolia isn’t easy. The black splotches are graphic and bold, while the green filagree feels inchoate- amateurish and somehow early internet, the green and the red taken together could easily be perceived as gauche. Somehow the design works and again, it shouldn’t, but that only makes it all the more impressive.
Designed By:Webgrrl Best colors: yellow, blue, dark red/ maroon, white, and grey Cost: $23.88 @ Redbubble
Mixed media, the dirty Rauschenberg style of composition is largely absent from the world of apparel. Why this is is hard to say; while this design does have specific elements that might get lost in translation is also has large and bold elements that will transfer just fine. With the rise of streetwear, the ubiquity of Basquiat, you’d think that the style that bridged abstract expressionism and pop art and acts as a stylistically antecedent to street art would be more common, but it is in actuality rather rare to see.
The composition for Owl as a whole is rather blocky. The image isn’t necessarily going for the frenetic energy that might be expected from an artist playing fast and loose with layering and assemblage; rather the owl, a symbol of knowledge and wisdom since the time in which Athena was relevant stands as a symbol for the state in which knowledge exists and is acquired in our distracted and fragmented time of awareness.
‘Owl’ represents contemporary youth and vitality in the sense that the main body is rigid by necessity, because youth and the ensuing recklessness that that entails can no longer sustained within our society of prolonged and ever expanding inequality. The youth today can’t afford to be young; not for a time as was common in the past. Today people are young into their thirties because the stability, the conditions to allow them to be otherwise have all but disappeared and the “prolonged adolescence” is rather a failure of society to allow them to find footing with the ‘adult’ world’. ‘Owl’ is a piece of our time not all knowing, but rather staring back and judging as to how so much optimism and vitality might be wasted.