Phary G. Mutha's Blog

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John Henry Blatter


John Henry Blatter is an artist with his roots in sculpture.  He has a B.F.A. in sculpture from Ohio State University and a M.F.A. in sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University.  He currently resides in Richmond, Virginia.  He not only has an extensive list of exhibitions, his work in impressive collections like the MoMA, New York but also has written a lot about art.  In 2005 he founded the Daily Constitutional, A Publication for the Artist’s Voice as a “forum for the individual artist voice among the cacophony of the art world at large”.

  In his artist statement he comments on his move to installation, video and sound installation art and away from his roots in more traditional sculpture.  He has done this because he believed it was the best way to convey the message in his work.  He is often the subject matter in his work, which make it personal at one level, but he believes there is an additional layer of universality in his work.  One of the topics he explores how  we struggle to define ourselves and the fear and anxiety that can result from being concerned about how others percieve us.  He also explores the fact that media is so integral in our lives that we have a false sense of reality. Questioning that if desensitized reality replaces human interaction and contact what does that mean for us.

In his work Moments he uses thrift dtore loud speakers, vides and sound to present to the viewer stories of moments in life as told by strangers collected by the artist.  This piece has a three demensional sculptural element as well as video and sound.  It seems to speak to his concept about the desensitation of reality.  HIs work As Seen on TV uses the infomercial style of video to “sell” himself.  This piece also speaks to the “anxiety” of self reflection andhow we present ourselves to the public.

The theme of hear and anxiety is one I am exploring in a different class and have been researching. It was  see the approach for this artist artist making art about fear and anxiety as compared to Munch’s The Scream.

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Nam June Paik


Nam June Paik was born in Korea and fled with his family during the Korean war.He eventually ended up in Japan and graduated from the University of Tokyo having studied art history and music history.  He further his studies in Munich and meets and works with John Cage in the Studio fur elektronische Musik at WDR, Cologne.  He is influenced by John Cage and the “FLuxus” art movement.  He does action music pieces and begins to get interested in electromagnetics and color television.  From there he continues to pursue  multiple monitor installation piece such as the TV Garden pictured above. He had a complex and prolific career before he had a stroke which left him in a wheel chair for the last decade of his life.  He died in 2006.

Paik was known for stacking  TV monitors into forms such as robots, men on horses or the American Flag pictured above.  He used television as an art form.  I find this a much better use of TV!   WHen I saw the TV Garden it literally made me laugh out loud, not only for the point it makes but also because I find the piece itself beautiful.  His involvement with John Cage and Fluxus resulted in further research on these topics.  Paik’s work ia facinating in the way he uses media, composition and eventually moving images.  He was exploring and helping to create a new media while using his roots in composition to create a statement on media.  One of the best examples of this is Not a Super Highway whwe he took antique cars, gutted them, painted them silver and filled them with cast off eletronics.  Mozart plays quietly from them.

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Time Compression Over Time


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Stephen Vitiello


Stephen Vitello was born in New York in 1964.  In college he studied film and was playing punk guitar music.  Today he is an electronic musician and sound artist.  He is an Associate professor of Kinetic Imaging at Virginia Commonwealth University.   Recently he has also worked at Electronic Arts Intermix, a company that distributes artist video tapes.  He was influenced by Nam June Paik who he worked with after meeting in 1991.  He has collaborated with a number of visual artists who encouraged  Vitiello to pursue his own work. His music and sound installationstake sound from the everyday environment and transform them into soundscapes.  Once example of this is his A Bell for Every Minute where he recorded bells from all over  NewYork, from churches to cat bells, and had them play one a minute and then in chorus on the hour.  This was installed  in a semi enclosed tunnel. The sounds are represented on a physical sound map that identifies the location of each bell. 

I listened and watched a number of his pieces.  There were aspects of each of them  I found interesting because of the visuals tied to the music but I often found the music disturbing.  It will be interesting toi see where he takes his art as he moves more into his own voice and away from collaboration and sound tracks.  If I could chose one of his works to experience it would be A Bell for every Minute.  It makes me think of all the sounds we hear each day and tune out.  It seems like we tune out the good and the bad noises because there is so much to hear.  Singling out the bells and being able to focus on them, connecting the city would be a moving experience.

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Paul Pfeiffer


Paul Pfeiffer is an American Video Artist that has a BFA in printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute and a MFA from Hunter College in New York.  He has won numerous awards.  He sometimes uses found footage with popular images and manipulates, in some cases actually digitally removing the image, to explore subjects like race, religion, art and human thought.   Erasure of the main image is a frequent technique utilized in his work as seen in the  Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In this work he used photographs of Marilyn Monroe but removed her image leaving only a monochrome background.  There has been criticism of his work as a technical acheivement rather than art, particularly since he often uses found images and digitally manipulates them.   

In an interview he talks about his obsessions with his process but that often the “material” dictates the end result rather than his will over the material and the results are often better than what his will would have imposed.  I find this to be true in working with “material” and that if you only impose your own will you can miss the best opportunities for successful work.   I find his erasure technique effective as the image he has erased does not dominate our thoughts or even what we relate to as they are popular images most would be familar with.  I feel that making them “invisible” but present is like memories and allows one’s thoughts about the piece to take many paths.

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Bill Viola


Bill Viola (whi is my age) has created videotapes and pther video art for over 35 years.  He has been a significant influence in establishing video art as a form of contemporary art.  His video installations are total environments that  include images and sound tat surround the viewer.  His video tapes, writings are widely broadcast and read.  He uses video as an avenue to self knowledge.  He focuses on universal human experiences such as birth and death.  He is influenced by Eastern and Western cultures, art and spiritual traditions.  He has a BFA in Experimental Studios from Syracuse University.

I was truly touched and facinated by his work.  I found the pieces as a whole to be beautiful, interesting and thought provoking.  I also felt you could stop on almost any frame and the image would be as beautiful and meaningful as the video as a whole.  I find his use of water, his description of the technical process and the results amazing and so appropriate to his concepts and the ideas he was presenting. His work is something I will explore further and could see influencing my own work.

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Jeff Baij


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Jenny Holzer


Jenny Holzer was born in 1950 and is an American conceptual artist.  She attended Ohio University, Rhode Island School of Design and was part of the Independant Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art.  She worked in several mediums before she began to focus on text as art in 1977.  She was an active member of an artist group called Colab.  She uses words and projects them in public spaces. She also includes her work on plaques, signs T-shirts and other media.  Initially she wrote her text but since 1993 has been using literary text by famous authors or text from de-classified military documents.  Her intent is to bring attention to thoughts or words that were once  meant to be secret.  Her work speaks to violence, oppression, war, death, and other subjects that can induce strong emotions.  Through her public projections she can reach large numbers of people rather than depending on their visit to a gallery or museum.

I felt very inspired by her work and although as artist we can avoid being too literal this is an example of how being literal really does work.   Her work provokes thought about our personal lives, values and about the values in our world wide society.  Her works about the differences fn the significant life issues for the person just trying to survive on the streets verus the issues of the person whose life is comfortable should strike all of us in this time of extreme economic stress.  The true power of the written word.

Jeff Baij


The digital medica artist Jeff Baij calls Venice, California home.  Although I searched for more information about him, it was scarce.  What is not scarce is the volumes of work he produces.  He must be a digital genius from the comments I read about some of his work by other digital artists who felt the level of digital accomplishment set a high standard of accomplishment  from a technical standpoint.  He has a “gift” with gifs. His work has a frantic intensity in it that may be the result of putting out so much work on a constant basis or because he is making a statement about what the” greater we ” must encounter in terms of brain stimulation or over stimulation on any given day. 

I looked at many of his pieces, sometimes stopping to linger and try to understand and other times “moving on”.  I enjoyed his Morandi (re) simplification when I considered it  an excercise in evaluating a painting’s composition and  the  effect color has on the mood and feeling a painting gives the viewer.  I was not as fond of the piece when I read that it was “art about art”, reducing the piece to a “system” that can be reproduced digitally. I enjoyed the pieces like the one above where he used an item for sale on E-bay, added color, animated it and completely “repurposed” the picture.  Its like recycling in cyberspace.

After spending some signifiant time trying to sort  his work out and find some meaning I could hang my hat on, I was left only with questions and no answers.

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Devotion Sequence

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