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Walter Benjamin and Andy Warhol

Posted on March 30, 2015 by admin

I’ve just read the influential 1936 essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin. He delves into the concept of authenticity in art in an age of infinite reproducibility. This is something to contemplate now that we have reached an era where digital art can be perfectly cloned. The essay led me to thinking about Andy Warhol and his methods. For no good reason here he is…

Eating a hamburger.

Being interviewed by Mean Gene Okerlund.

Being sung about.

Dining on hare with William Burroughs.

I wonder what he would be up to now.

More on Walter Benjamin later.



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Bauhauser Bayer and Raquel Welch

Posted on March 25, 2015 by admin

I once thought it a monumental eyesore.

If you have ever driven through Denver on I-25, by the Broadway exit, you may have noticed a giant yellow wall of concrete, Jenga-like blocks stacked and fanned out on top of each other. For years I eyed this sculpture with suspicion, frankly I didn’t like it. It reminded me of a lot of uninspired public art you see plopped around in an attempt to lend a bit of culture to cities. I guess not everything can be the Chicago Picasso. For years I wondered about it, but never thought to stop by the Denver Design District, where it resides, to enquire. Really, why would I? Yet I was curious.

Well now I know. Intriguingly, it’s a work by an original Bauhaus member, Austrian Herbert Bayer and it’s called “Articulated Wall”. Tom Lundin’s very cool The Denver Eye blog set me straight.

The man did it all. He was a graphic designer, architect, photographer, painter, art curator, art director, and of course sculptor. A product of the Weimar milieu, he studied under Kandinsky and Klee. He was thus included in the Nazi’s Degenerate Art exhibit, an amazing collection of art for all the wrong reasons — an incredible story by itself. This prompted him to head for the United States where he continued a productive career until his death in 1985, which is the year the “Wall” landed in Denver. I’m unsure of the connection, but he did reside in Aspen during that town’s early resort days just after the war.

There is an ongoing exhibit of his work at the Aspen Institute and at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center.

It seems that he should be a little more well known, especially to me. So, now I have respect for what I once considered not so interesting. It’s time I visited the thing. I’ll also have to check out a book of his complete works MIT Press published in 1984.

Oh, and visit The Denver Eye, you are in for a treat. You will get more on the “Articulated Wall” plus a dose of Raquel Welch. Trust me.



It’s actually larger than the original. Respect.

She dances about architecture

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Halo Dali!

Posted on March 9, 2015 by admin

Salvador Dali, a Soft Self Portrait

Another interesting film on an artist, this time the subject is the saint of the surreal, with the big O narrating, though not directing. Is it good? Is it schlock? Was Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dali i Domenech a genius?

I remember in a late-in-life interview, Frank Lloyd Wright was leadingly asked by Mike Wallace what he thought of modern art, and Dali specifically. Wright admitted he was an amazing salesman. High praise indeed! Welles has yet again allied himself with another master svengali. Compelling stuff.


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The Evolution of De-evolution

Posted on March 8, 2015 by admin

Myopia continues for another month. The Mark Mothersbaugh exhibit at MCA-Denver. Through April 12. Watch this video on how Mothersbaugh’s vision came to be, so to speak.

Next stop: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, June 18 – Sept 6, 2015. Future dates in Austin, Cincinnati, Santa Monica, and New York.

Devo’s amazing “Whip It” was perfect video fodder for 80s MTV. For many of us Devo exemplifies the 70s New Wave (which Devo actually predates) to what became an 80s aesthetic with their red “energy domes” and hazmat suits. Their bright, angular, (seemingly) cold, clean, symmetric, repetitive, factory-produced, artificial, keyboardy, irreverence was firmly rooted in 60s counter culture and the milieu around the 1971 Kent State killings (Devo are alums). You cannot separate the music from their highly visual style — an influential vision unique to the mind of Mark Mothersbaugh.

Amazingly, Myopia, the ongoing presentation of his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver is his first major exhibit. As it was a Denverite, Adam Lerner, who encouraged Mothersbaugh to reveal the rest of the iceberg, of which Devo is only the public tip, the Mile High City is the starting point (it will move to other cities during the year). His art utilizes different approaches (de-evolution being one, which is explained) and media, while maintaining a unity. After viewing the source material, Devo starts to make more sense. Myopia fleshes out and makes warm what can otherwise be seen as plastic and aloof. Although Devo embraced digital, video, (and digital video!), and despite a cookie-cutter facade, there is a human behind it after all. And, as a bonus, that human, Mark Mothersbaugh, performed in the flesh at a related event, at the Holiday Theater in Denver on January 22. When it comes to a town near you, use your Freedom of Choice!

Devolved headgear at MCA-Denver

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O for Orson

Posted on February 24, 2015 by admin

I’ve been on a movie kick, watching and rewatching films and documentaries about art. A must see is from one of my favorite people…

“F for Fake” (1973) is the last major film by the man who himself became a household name through a form of deception. In this film essay/documentary Orson Welles explores the world of a master art forger. It takes one to know one — as you may recall, Mr. Welles, inadvertently or not, pranked a nation with his 1939 radio play based on H.G. Well’s “War of the Worlds”. A master illusionist himself, Welles seems in sympathy with the dapper, aristocratic, polyglot Elmyr de Hory, who claims quite proudly that his work hangs in all the world’s great art palaces.

In the course of filming on swinging Ibiza, de Hory’s home, a third world-class charlatan, Clifford Irving, appears, creating a trio of charming rouges enjoying each other’s company. Also, you’ll behold Oja Kodar, Welles’ companion, and the fourth member of this merry band. Pablo Picasso and Howard Hughes play important roles in this labyrinthine narrative, though not directly involved (they were alive at the time, however, barely). A trailer was produced well after the fact and is mostly made up of footage not used in the film.

Although I’ve linked the film on YouTube, how about procuring a genuine copy from Criterion, with all the bells and whistles. It includes commentary from Oja Kodar, among other things.

And wouldn’t you know it, there are phony fake de Hory’s out there.

A genuine de Hory

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The NEW Shock of the New — 10 Years On

Posted on February 16, 2015 by admin

Here at BetterWall we are re-watching “The Shock of the New”, the classic documentary about the development of modern art. It premiered on British TVs in 1980 and came over the pond in 1981, on PBS of course — the U.S. home of Benny Hill. The wit and intelligence conveyed by the highly opinionated and articulate art critic Robert Hughes still holds up today.

I only recently realized he did a one-hour follow up in 2004 called “The NEW Shock of the New 2004″. I have yet to see it – I’m waiting to finish up the original series – but I’m anxious to hear his take on the likes of Damien Hirst (I bet he’s no fan of pickled shark!). You can watch all 9 in the series on YouTube — between checking out cat videos. The book “The Shock of the New”, a companion to the series is also highly recommended.

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The Shock of the New — 102 Years Ago

Posted on February 14, 2015 by admin

The Armory Show. Feb 17-March 15, 1913. New York City.

They say great art anticipates. On the eve of a great historic spasm, the art world experienced an earth-shaking moment of its own. It was the first large exhibit of modern art in America. What the punters must have thought! And indeed, just as Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” would do in Paris a few weeks later, it offended the sensibilities of many. Roosevelt opined, “That’s not art!”.

This new way of seeing was indicative of the optimism of a new century, yet also foreshadowed the truly offensive horrors to come. The 69th Infantry Regiment, whose armory it was (and still is), would be in France by October 1917. The iconoclasm of the Fauvists, Cubists, and Futurists, heralded a changing of the guard and a toppling of Europe’s old orders. The incident in Sarajevo may have caused the kettle to reach the boiling point, but this exhibit showed that something had been brewing for some time.

And it wasn’t just an all-avant garde, -male, -European affair, as this piece in ArtNews explains.

Would have made a good banner

Rather optimistic

THIS is what they thought

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Low-Brow and “Big Eyes”

Posted on February 3, 2015 by admin

Amy Adams wins Golden Globe for title role in Margaret Keane film.

She’s also nominated for a leading actress BAFTA trophy, coming up on Feb. 8. Here’s hoping for a fellow Coloradan!

An enduring memory growing up in the suburbs in the 60s and 70s were the freaky big eyes staring at me from the walls of friends’ homes. By the 80s these kitsch masterpieces became collectible among hipsters. As it turns out, the artist behind these very popular, money-making images wasn’t Walter Keane at all (though he took all the credit), but his wife Margaret. Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, in theaters now, tells the whole story.

Also, chanteuse Lana Del Rey got a nomination at the Golden Globes for her song “Big Eyes”.

I was watching “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”, the 1962 Bette Davis/Joan Crawford classic, and what did I spy 15 minutes in?

Behind every "great" man, the woman who did all the work

A Keane spotting

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The Most Popular Painting Ever?

Posted on February 3, 2015 by admin

More from the Dept. of Low-Brow Art

The Chinese Girl, aka The Green Lady

Just as I remember big-eyed Keane children in my youth, prints of this painting also hung in many a tract home. Painted in Cape Town, South Africa, by Vladimir Tretchikoff in the early 50s, the original sold at auction for $1.5 million in 2013. The image of Monika Sing Lee was one of the most reproduced of the 20th century.

As far as I know there is no film based on Vlad and his painting. The Green Lady (she looks blue to me) has made several notable media appearances over the decades; including the cover of a Chumbawamba album, and in Hitchcock’s “Frenzy”, on the wall of the killer.

They oughta make a movie!

It must have been something she ate

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When Problem Comes Along, You Must Fix It — Or Not!

Posted on January 27, 2015 by admin

Kintsugi and Marcel Duchamp.

As the banners here at BetterWall are hung outdoors to advertise exhibits, they are exposed to the elements and may have slight signs of wear. Though we always make sure only the finest specimens are sent to our customers, a little scuff only adds to its authenticity and character — yes? Nirvana’s scruff to Devo’s sheen — both have their merits. We’ve all seen the artificial weathering of clothing over the years as a marketing tool, however, there is nothing like a genuinely worn pair of jeans. Even a scratch on vinyl, and the skip it creates, tells you it’s yours. This got me to thinking about Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repair, and the Dadaism of Marcel Duchamp.

Actually I stumbled upon this concept on Wikipedia, so I’ll just go with the definition I found there:

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

And then I got to contemplating Duchamp’s “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even” aka “The Large Glass”, which lives at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The story goes that during transport the glass shattered. Marcel, apparently an iconoclast even when it came to his own work, liked the resulting patterns, and decided against repair; much of the Dadaist philosophy being rooted in chance.

And coincident to writing this, and yet another rock’n’roll reference, indie group, Death Cab for Cutie have just announced they are releasing an album called “Kintsugi” this March.

An example of "Golden Joinery"


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