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Batman Returns

My fiancé and I live in Chelsea, known to many as the art gallery epicenter of New York City. Peppering the sidewalks like haphazard splashes of paint on a Pollock canvas, there are almost 350 concurrent exhibitions at any given time. Some Saturdays, with no plan in mind, we meander the avenues neighboring the Hudson River and walk from 20th street until 25th. One such day in February, 2012 we stumbled upon Petzel Gallery.

The Walkup / Petzel Gallery The Walkup / Petzel Gallery

Anarchy, animation, trash, charcoal, linen and the world of a deranged evil villain collide in the gallery.

The Walkup / Petzel Gallery

Batman Returns, the show by artist Joyce Pensato ran from January 12 – February 25, 2012. Pensato, is an artist born, raised and currently working in Brooklyn. Her proximity to Gotham is not lost on me. “Batman” is a motif that first appeared in Pensato’s drawings as early as the mid-1970’s. “I was resisting working with the traditional still life — apples and pears and all that crap,” she says. Something clicked when she first sketched the caped crusader. “I just fell in love with Batman. I think it was the ears.

The Walkup / Petzel Gallery

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Ben-Day Dots – An Artist’s Dwelling (9)

The Ben-Day dots printing process, named after illustrator and printer Benjamin Henry Day, Jr. and is similar to Pointillism (Think of  Georges Seurat‘s The Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte and how it changes from an amalgam of tiny dots to a fully shaded image based on one’s proximity to the canvas). Depending on the effect, color and optical illusion needed, small colored dots are closely spaced, widely spaced or overlapping to create the illusion of shadow, color, and dimension. These dots differ from the printing process in newspapers (ever notice those little dots on the edges of a page) – those are halftone dots or dot gain – and differ from the Ben-Day dot in that they come in many sizes, circumferences, spacing and diameters. Ben-Day dots are able to express an image while all dots on the page remain the same size.  Most people are familiar with Ben-day dots without even realizing. Why? The simple answer is Western-style comic books from the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Puma 917 – Popart Pack – Roy Lichtenstein

Hi! I am a Ben-Day dot, all the circles above are the same size!

Hi! I am a Halftone dot, I help to create images with dots of different sizes. 

Pulp comic books used benday dots in primary colors to inexpensively create the secondary colors such as flesh tone. The dotting technique was also an inexpensive way for artists and printers to create shading and depth. Ben-Day dots were considered the hallmark of American pop-artist Roy Lichtenstein, who enlarged and exaggerated them in many of his paintings and sculptures. In addition to appropriating comic books’ melodramatic content, Lichtenstein manually simulated the Benday dots used in the mechanical reproduction of images. One is not supposed to actually “see the dots” in images however, in Lichtenstein’s paintings the dots are over-sized and a central tenant. In this way, the painter is taking something robotic and manual (and hidden) and forcing to be the organic, man-made focus of the canvas.

 Roy Lichtenstein, Drowning Girl, 1963

The artist himself explains, “I was interested in the fact that the cartoon faces and so forth were so unreal and that we took them, generally for realistic. If you go through the magazine, the girl looked pretty in the picture, you know. Then when you really look at what you’ve got—black lines and red lips—that there isn’t anything in this picture that’s real. I was interested in say, the style of, say, a pretty girl in a comic book, or a hero, whatever it was manufactured out of a kind of idealism as to what people should look like, modified by economies of the printing process.”  There is also a dark-humor inherent in Lichtenstein’s ability to make-fun of a character’s death, or the dramatic narrative of a comic book, by oversimplifying it in large format.


Comic books and printing techniques are often very focused on properly recreating a human character by using mechanical means. However, I am more interested in how these “dots” can recreate the oeuvre and warmth of a living space. In Interior Series by Roy Lichtenstein the idea of a “home” is explored and mocked. The prints of the Interior Series are banal domestic environments inspired by furniture ads he found in telephone books. The Interiors are based on advertisements, most of which Lichtenstein cut from the Yellow Pages – further challenging the idea of and blurring the lines between “low art, commercial art, and high art”.


Photographer Laurie Lambrecht worked as a part-time assistant to Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein from 1990 to 1992, helping him to inventory his studio in preparation for his 1993 retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.

The Interiors, one of the artist’s major final series, portray colorful magazine spreads of rooms for purchase. With the artist’s usual dry wit, they depict domestic spaces, occasionally occupied by Nudes from his other late series. his body of colorful paintings and prints reflects the excess of the 1980s. I was lucky enough to view one of these LARGE format paintings in person at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and let me tell you they are massive, mural sized pieces. They are almost the size of the room they are trying to portray and give the effect of actually being in a real room (which is incredible seeing as though they are all on a 2d plane). They hit you in the face like Whaam!

La Sortie by Roy Lichtenstein. Image found HERE.

Image found HERE. 

Roy Lichtenstein’s Interior with Skyline. I spy a Saarinen design.

Wallpaper with blue floor interior by Roy Lichtenstein. Image found HERE.

Modern Room by Roy Lichteinstein. Image found HERE. I spy mid-century modern and an homage to Warhol.

The Den by Roy Lichtenstein. Image found HERE.

Image from Roy Lichtenstein: Interiors, by  Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Fitzpatrick, Dorothy Lichtenstein printed by Hudson Hills, 1999., pg. 58

The Living Room by Roy Lichteinstein. Image found HERE.

Roy Lichtenstein – Interior with Red Wall – lot 47 – $7,026,500, est. $8 to 12 million via ArtNet. Roy Lichtenstein’s 10 foot tall Interior with Red Wall (1991), as seen above, sold to a telephone bidder for $6.2 million ($7,026,500 with fees) against a pre-sale estimate of $8 million-$10 million. I spy lots of Knoll inspired design items. Zap! Bang! Whoosh!

So how can you live in this mechanically produced Ben-Day dot world of excess, consumerism, pop and color? Have no fear! Zing! Swoosh! Zap! Hint: stick to CMKY or RGB tones, meaning Yellows, Reds, Green, Blue, and other primaries. Look here:


Shop by the Numbers: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11a / 11b / 12




Art is powerful, cathartic, transcendental, revolutionary, divisive, galvanizing, unusual, and novel. Art has a million attributes and adjectives that make it awesome (I am aware of the excessive use of A’s in that sentence). Because the visceral reactions effused and emanated from artwork can be so striking, some people also believe that art can be dangerous. It happened recently when Catholic University in Washington banned the emotionally charged play “Angels in America” , The School Board of the Fremont Unified School District voted to not include “Angels in America” on its AP English Reading List because of its use of primarily gay characters, and the original playhouse that showed the then burgeoning show (Charlotte Repertory Theatre) has since been shutdown. This occurred due to blatant anti-homosexuality reactions and protests over public funding and whose company and government dollars are funding WHAT art.

The master bedroom of artist Julian Schnabel’s duplex, with Picasso’s Femme au Chapeau. During World War II, Picasso who resided in Paris then was banned from exhibiting his art as his art forms did not confirm to the Nazi views on art. Photographs by Robert Polodori. Image found in Vanity Fair, HERE.

“Plates from a book of Picasso works and a drawing by Eric Fischl hang above a pair of custom­made sofas in the living room; the vintage parchment-covered chairs are upholstered in a Rubelli fabric, the bamboo side tables are family heirlooms, and the rug is by de Gunzburg.” Photographer: William Waldron. Image found via Elle Decor, HERE.

This sort of reaction happened with shock artist Andre Serrano’s controversial work “Piss Christ” (which was still being vandalized as of 2011), The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili (and the ENTIRE “Sensation” show at The Brooklyn Museum in 2000), as well as Robert Mapplethrope’s 1989 National Endowment of the Arts’ funded retrospective The Perfect Moment. Who defines what is obscene, what is normal, and what is acceptable – the artist? the government? the patron?

Renee Cox , Missy at Home, 2008,76 x 101 cm. Jamaican-American artist Renée Cox’s depiction of Da Vinci’s famous, ‘The Last Supper’, entitled “Yo Mama’s Last Supper” (not shown above) included all the apostles as black men (sans one) and Renée herself serving as the centrepiece, posing naked in emulation of Christ. The image was considered banned in New York City by Rudy Guiliani until 2002, when Michael Bloomberg repealed a committee on morality. Image via Galerie Zidoun, HERE.

The National Endowment for the Arts was established in 1965. President Lyndon Johnson said upon signing the enabling legislation for the NEA, “We fully recognize that no government can call artistic excellence into existence…Nor should any government seek to restrict the freedom of the artist to pursue his own goals in his own way.” And yet…..20 grants have been controversial since the NEA’s inception (albeit out of TENS OF THOUSANDS)- and enough public funding has been openly questioned to shut down exhibitions, block a bevy of curse words, and challenge what it means to create something original.

Image from Elle Decor June 2006 of Jane Holzer’s home in Southampton, with vintage Hermès blankets, and photographs by artists Andres Serrano and Richard Prince, Photographer: Douglas Friedman. Found, HERE.

This dining room features tables by Maxime Old and mid-century orchestra chairs, as well as paintings by Chris Ofili (once banned and censored). The chandelier in the hallway was made from a basketball net by artist David Hammons.

The living room, by Joseph Matzo, Paul Vincent Wiseman and James Hunter, of The Wiseman Group, collaborated with architects Legoretta + Legoretta on a Maui house,October 2005. . The diptych is by Frank Stella. In a crazy series of events, Stella’s often quoted 1960’s phrase “What you see is what you see”, banned personal subjectivity and symbolism, this belief was the start of the abstraction known as minimalism – an intense reaction to post–World War II Western Art. Many of the shapes stella uses in his Polish Village series were from once banned Holocaust-era books; however Stella begs the user not to misconstrue his meaning or infer symbolism from a title. To my knowledge, Stella himself was never banned – although controversy has ensured over public funding of his ‘ugly’ works in South Korea HERE.

At one point or another Shel Silverstein, Walt Whitman, Richard Serra, Allen Ginsberg, Sandra Cisneros, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ani Difranco, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, Marc Chagall, Lewis Carrol, George Orwell, John Milton, Voltaire, Dr. Seuss, and D.H. Lawrence have all been banned (to name a small few). Even before the days of the fantasy distopic novel Fahrenheit 451, wherein police officers burned books, Nazis were burning “so-called degenerate” artwork in huge pyres. According to Mallory Hellman in Let’s Go Paris, “A large amount of ‘degenerate art’ by Picasso, Dalí, Ernst, Klee, Léger and Miró was destroyed in a bonfire on the night of July 27, 1942 in the gardens of the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris.” Art work is a human’s self expression of individuality and autonomy. Any denial of ideas, creativity, and freedoms should be questioned. For a list of the more current visual art bans, try HERE or HERE or HERE.

Jane and Marc Nathanson hired designer Richard Hallberg to add a gallery for their art collection at their 1920s Art Déco Los Angeles residence, April 2007. The above living room’s fireplace is a 1960 Franz Kline oil. Andy Warhol (whose movies were banned in Boston and Chicago in 1960’s) and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1984-85 GE Tobacco Section is at left. Image found Here.

So as a big F*** You (censored myself, hahaha) to the past nonbelievers and haters of originality or genius – I present you with that idea of decorating with once banned artists. Free people, and create freely. Knowledge is power and ideas CAN be dangerous, but they CAN also be transformative. What is your stance?