Retna, Typology, and a New Language

LA-based artist Retna started as a street artist but blew up in 2010 when Jeffrey Deitch said his exhibition at New Image Art was “the most exciting exhibition..this year, anywhere”. He created his own language based on Old English, Asian calligraphy, Hewbrew, and Arabic. His work is stunning and upon closer inspection you see the symbols are not random–humans cannot be random–and I want to believe that there is a story behind his one-man language.

“I’ve been writing and I wanted to make this text that was influenced by the world and I wanted everyone to be able to relate to it. I was mixed [race], so I never really felt like I fit in, or I was either one or this or that, so I just started to say I was down with everybody and I wanted my work to reflect that. That was the idea I was after.”

I wish there was more large-scale street art around Raleigh.


retna nycretnaart_retna_02aPrint2This one is probably a collaboration with El Mac.

(Source: More Intelligent Life)

the first draft

It is hard to make time to write, and even harder to start writing. I want the first draft to be the only draft, as if my word is scripture, my pen commanded by a higher being. These ridiculous expectations stem the flow from thoughts to paper and creates a truly jumbled and terrible waste of trees.

Don’t sweat it. Writing is work. Edit.

Every first draft is perfect, because all a first draft has to do is exist.
– Jane Smiley

El Mac: Photorealistic Graffiti

mural-at-the-new-adobe-campus-in-lehi-utah_by_El-Mac600_450El Mac is a graffiti and photorealistic artist based out of LA. He has done installations from Miami Art Basel to the Adobe HQ (above). I like the ripples/waves he uses for shading and contour, which can also be seen in his sketches (bottom). Interestingly, El Mac names an artist I featured here as a source of inspiration.

Retna, another LA-based artist, did the typography in the installations with the boy and the man with the mac-with-retna-for-ruger-new-tattoo-shop-in-los-angeles_by_El-Mac600_800 miami_by_El-Mac600_450jerseycitysm

Art, Freedom, and The Kiss–A Tribute in Syria

“If you can not please everyone with your deeds and your art, please a few”

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) is an Austrian painter and first president of the Vienna Secession ( an artists’ union), whose goal was to rid itself of classical oppression and motto was “To every age its art. To art its freedom”. The majority of his subjects are women, and most of his paintings were considered pornographic in the late 1800’s. He specialized in theater decoration in his early years and his love of costume is clear in his paintings of socialites.

His paintings remind me of the artwork and stained glass windows I have seen in sanctuaries across the nation–bright colors, lots of gold, mosaics, and heavy symbolism–snakes, flowers, sword, halos–but more human.

A few days ago I saw that a young man, Tammam Azzam, painted The Kiss (1908) on a bombed-out building in Syria, only a few days after the UN placed the death toll at 70,000 (homage at bottom). I am glad this image bounced back to us from space, somehow sent from a country where the government has disabled cell phones, landlines, and electricity. This image conveys hope and compassion to a land in dire need of help.  Gustav would approve.

gustav-klimt.jpg!Portrait hygeia-detail-of-medicine-1907Medicine, 1907, University of Vienna Ceiling Paintings, destroyed by the Nazi SS in 1945

Hope2-Klimt Hope II, 1907-1908

klimt.adele-bloch-bauer Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907

Gustav_Klimt_049 Portrait of Emilie Louise Flöge, 1902

the-kiss-1908(1)The Kiss, 1908

tammam-azzam-freedom-graffiti-150x150cm-archival-print-2012-edition-of-5-courtesy-of-the-artist-and-ayyam-galleryTammam Azzam‘s homage to The Kiss
Note: the majority of the images were taken from

Graffiti: RYNGAR

The purging of bookmarks directed me to an page for a graffiti artist called RYNGAR. I cannot find out anything about him and I cannot remember how I came across him in the first place. All I know is that the artist’s work is found primarily in France.

The mechanized | industrialized cross sections of these sad little animals make me feel a little sad and the last one reminds me of the socialist murals by Jose Clemente Orozco.

925837 garce_oks_ryngar_b2m_08 bien_garce_retork_ryngar_brown_dog

7886710356_bbfd64f871 6025828254_f3cf4ac70a_z-1 ryngar72mioshelemansweb

Anselm Kiefer, an Artists Reflection on the Third Reich

Born in 1945, Anselm Kiefer’s attitude is heavily influenced  by World War II and the role the Third Reich played in the destruction of a people and a continent. Kiefer creativity arises from his dissatisfied with post-war culture and Germany’s reluctance to discuss their wartime atrocities. He started his career in 1969 with a photographic series called Occupations, which featured him saluting in full Nazi garb, a criminal offense in Germany.

The theme of many paintings is death and decay; many paintings are fiery and dark, have heavy use of German and Jewish mythology, and appear damp and moldy. His technique of layering paint and using additional materials, such as straw and lead, lend the paintings much depth and texture. The paintings are quite large, often on 9×12′ canvases.

But art should be full of intriguing questions such as this. Art really is something very difficult. It is difficult to make, and it is sometimes difficult for the viewer to understand. It is difficult to work out what is art and what is not art. All this can be hard work.

Anslem Kiefer

Click an image to view a large format slideshow.

sources: The Guardian and Saatchi Gallery

Check out my new job at Frank Harmon Architect!

Hello loyal followers, visitors and one-time hitters,

I want to apologize for my absence the last week and a half… I was previously posting almost every week day, a feat I was very proud of. However, two weeks ago today was my first day at Frank Harmon Architect, PA, a nationally acclaimed architecture firm in Raleigh, NC with a focus on sustainable practices. Check out the projects on our website and especially Frank Harmon’s “Journal“.

Here is a view of our office on the 3rd floor of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) building our firm designed and completed in late 2011.

I’m excited about the opportunity to work with such great minds on interesting projects, to be surrounded by creativity, and to face these new challenges head-on.

Here is my head shot for the company PR stuff courtesy of my friend and colleague, Courtney E. I think it turned out all right, especially given the previous 39 shots!

A solution for small closets: an Open-Air Closet

I have a tiny closet and ran out of space long ago. The cheapest solution is hooks but it is ugly and in randomly placed holes from the previous tenants. I have thought about clothing racks but they are bulky and cold. Then I realized all my wooden hangers have swivel hooks and can hang parallel to the wall, or on the door. All I need are towel racks or even curtain rods…but what if it was an entire piece instead of a wall installations?

A bench with shoe storage would act as the counter balance for the back piece with two racks for hangers. If the back piece was odor and/or moisture-absorbing that would further enhance the functionality of the piece. In addition, this piece acts as a display for my clothing and shoes.

P.S. This is my 2nd Sketchup, the first being a side table from June.

Design Review Questions You Should Ask Yourself

Jason Fried came up with a list of questions he asks himself while designing. Stepping back and reviewing an idea is difficult, especially if other people, and their time and feelings, are involved. Guiding questions have always helped me and this list has a lot of good ones. I posted a partial list here, the entire list is on his website, 37signals.

  • Is what it says and what it means the same thing?
  • Do we want that?
  • Why do we need to say that here?
  • If you stopped reading here, what’s the message?
  • How does this make you feel?
  • How else can we say this?
  • What’s memorable about this?
  • Who needs to know/see that?
  • What’s the payoff?
  • What’s the simpler version of this?
  • What does a more polished version of this look like?
  • What’s missing?
  • Does that make it clearer?
  • Does that make it easier or harder?
  • Would this be better as a sentence or a picture?
  • Why is that there?
  • What matters here?
  • What would happen if we got rid of that?
  • If we got rid of this, does that still work?
  • Is it obvious what happens next?
  • What problem is that solving?
  • What makes this a must have?

Toshiro Mifune & Akira Kurosawa, best team in cinema, Ever.

Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, a Japanese director and artist, collaborated on 16 films over the course of 18 years, during the height of Japanese cinema.

Clint Eastwood, the cowboy, picked up his Man With No Name archetype from Toshiro Mifune, the oft bandit and roving warrior, with a gruff, emotive, presence.  His versatile skills are seen while spitting and snarling during Rashomon,  sweating in a terrified rage in Stray Dogs, or compassionately taking care of the sick and poor in their last film together, Red Beard. 

Akira Kurosawa impacted New Hollywood’s Golden Age of directors like George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. His films are carefully thought out; the mise-en-scène is carefully constructed. His nihilistic nature explores morality, set with a keen stylistic edge. Did I mention he wrote the majority of his scripts?–multi-layers plots, complex characters and fantastic dialogue (I need to learn Japanese). Kurosawa is a master of cinema.

Kurosawa and Mifune bequeathed a vast and varied critically-acclaimed work of art; of their sixteen films, fifteen are part of the Criterion Collection. Some may not like subtitles but the visual beauty and superb acting transcends words. The sets are minimal because of both Japan’s culture and Kurosawa’s set direction, and allow Mifune much freedom of expression.

I am proud of nothing I have done other than with him.
-Mifune on Kurosawa

I am a person rarely impressed by actors, but in the case of Mifune I was completely overwhelmed.
– Kurosawa

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

HuluPlus has a special section for the Criterion Collection as well as North American Video in Cameron Village, for my fellow Acorns.

The Kurosawa–Mifune Collection – via Listal
Drunken Angel (1948)
The Quiet Duel (1949)
Stray Dog, (1949)
The Idiot (1951)
Rashomon (1950)
Seven Samurai (1954)
I Live Fear (1955)
Throne of Blood (1957)
The Lower Depths (1957)
The Hidden Fortress (1958)
The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
Yojimbo (1961)
Sanjuro (1962)
High and Low (1965)
Red Beard (1965)

Sources: Moseisly Cinema, Kurosawa School of Film,, The Criterion Collection

Repair Urban Sprawl and Strip Malls

I can’t remember where I found this image but it is a great solution to boring, one-dimensional strip malls. The courtyard could provide greenery and seating for restaurants and function as an open-air market. In theory the rooftop gardens and solar panels will save money in the long run but may be overlooked by the developers.

Strip mall development in 2012 was 5 million square feet, down from 200 million square feet in 2006. However, continuation of development is absurd considering over 11% of strip malls in North America have been abandoned. The concessions we and our cities have made for cars is unbelievable and should not be tolerated. Repurposing existing strip malls to accomodate the wants and needs of local citizens–hopefully with locally-owned businesses–should be at the forefront of our agendas.

Atlantic Cities

Earth & Bamboo School in Bangladesh

Hand-Made School in Rudrapur, Bangladesh

Architects Anna Heringer and Eike Roswag designed and planned the Rudrapur school and students, teachers, and volunteers built it at a cost of $22,835 USD! The foundation is brick, the lower walls are loam and straw, the upper walls are bamboo with a galvanized iron roof. The total area of the school is 3,500 sf and the design allows for natural light and air ventilation.

Heringer was a student volunteer with a Bangladeshi Dipshikha, an education center for rural children, for a year in 1997. She kept in contact with the school and was later asked to help build a new school using local materials, completing the project in 2005.

The local Bangladeshi do not think this project is possible to recreate because of the equipment involved. However, in a developed country, where construction equipment is abound, this type of sustainable construction can easily happen!

It is amazing what basic elements and physical labor can do! In the United States so many great projects do not have the funds to realize completion. These beautiful international projects prove that a large budget is not needed to build beautiful creative spaces in our communities!

The center cutout reminds me of Safe Haven Orphanage’s library


Robi Mobile Library, Germany

The Robi Mobile Library, designed by Linie Zweii, allows children to access books when a traditional brick-and-mortar library isn’t available. This concept could easily be adapted for the U.S. public school system. When the government cuts funding, activities that create well-rounded, healthy children are the first to go, like recess, lunch, and libraries. It would be better to browse a library once a week than not at all.

A library on wheels could circulate to schools, churches, parks, the YMCA… it could operate on a schedule much like a food truck, but with a membership. Book returns could be installed at those locations so children can return books 24/7 to keep continuous circulation.

Source: Fast Company

Monstrum’s Awesome Playgrounds

Monstrum, a Danish design firm, builds thoughtful imaginative wooden playgrounds all over the world. They create playgrounds with child development in mind, building to challenge and stimulate the child. Not only are they great for kids, but as an adult, I certainly appreciate the aesthetic and inventiveness.

Sadly, many schools in the United States are cutting recess and playtime with major drawbacks in children’s health and behavior. A study by the Elementary School Journal in 2008 found that almost 25% of schools did not have recess. I find this more perplexing with childhood obesity rates on the rise– 20% of 6-11 year olds were obese in 2008. Plus, many studies have found a strong positive correlation between child’s play and self-esteem.

“I get this feeling in my legs when they want to run and that feeling moves up to my belly and when that feeling moves up to my head I can’t remember what the rules are.”
– Nadav, 7, Pittsburgh

Guy Laramée: The Great Wall book carvings

Guy Laramée, a self-professed anachronist, is a Montreal-based multi-disciplinary artist. His most notable works are landscapes sandblasted into old books. The pieces invoke the feeling of a time forgotten, of places that may have existed but no longer do. The detail is breathtaking and I would love the opportunity to see them firsthand.

Continue reading “Guy Laramée: The Great Wall book carvings”

Put Parking Spaces to Better Use

What a great way to bring awareness to our use of space in urban centers. If I created a collapsable version, could it be put in any parking space?What if I transformed a flatbed trailer into a mobile park or common area? If the meters were paid and rules followed, I don’t foresee any problems besides taking alcohol into the street. However, the Pub Trolley allows drinking on a vehicle (?) in the street.

San Francisco


Park(ing) Day at Ritual Coffee Roasters

City of Gold

This model depicts what ancient Rome may have looked according to six etchings done by Giovanni Battista Piranesi in 1762. It also reminds me of a Rube Goldberg contraption I made for a high school physics project. I came home to find the completed Contraption gold and decorated with toy parts, rocks, and feathers. I hated it at first but then saw how baller it was compared to other projects. Thanks Mom!

“Model created by Yale School of Architecture students for 2012 Architecture Biennale, Venice. Model manufactured by Materialise; gold leaf applied by Pasquale Bonfilio. Photo:Materialise.”


Airy Thai Library

Fifteen Norwegian Architecture students went to Thailand to build Safe Haven Orphanage’s first library on a budget of $4,650 in January of 2009.

It is amazing the climate demands only one wall and an overhang. Removing the midsection to play with light was a great idea and it throws in the use for a gangplank!

If only Americans were more willing to embrace nature instead of sticking to the confines of a controlled climate! Really, who needs conditioned air all the time? I only like it at home, work, in my car, while I’m shopping, at the gym…..oh. 

Source: Great Spaces

P.S. I don’t condition that much of my air, only the hottest of nights in the bedroom and the hottest of days when I’m in the office (the rest of the house doesn’t have AC), which was probably only 30 times total this year. Also, I spent the first half of the summer in the house because I broke my right fibula and the second half starting a food truck – which means no work or gym AC.