Coca-Cola Pop Art Gallery: John Clem Clarke

During the second half of the twentieth century, popular culture and the mass media gained a huge significance in American culture. Pop art that was a sign of the times: a product, a tribute to art history and critique of the social situation.
In the sixties, the New York art scene was very diverse, with people coming from different places, backgrounds and art disciplines & movements. The young John Clem Clarke was always fascinated art & advertising. He moved to New York, started painting and quickly made a name in the NYC pop art scene. Art about art is a continuous thread through Clarke’s work. His series re-working the Old Masters, such as Velasquez’s “Las Meninas” and Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” are popular icons of the late 60’s.
Clarke’s works, a mix of photo-realism and comic style with a pop art imagery. hang today in major museums as NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art & Whitney Museum of American Art, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, LA’s County Museum and Washington’s Hirshhorn Museum.

Clarke works in the pop art tradition of Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, Roy Liechtenstein & Tom Wesselmann, drawn on the graphic vocabularies of commercial modernity: “I play back and forth using unique objects and a mass-produced presentation style. You might say that ideas I express are a lot more complex than the apparently simple style I use to express them”.
Speed is vital to the freshness of John Clem Clarke’s works, and animation is the key to his style. Every line is alive, no edge is ever straight. The large size of his artworks plays an important role in the transformation of Clarke’s illustration-based style into high art.
Working on big size canvasses, his work is quite technical. The last years he uses a computer for the design phase, but before he had to work out all specific details as a sketch, use an overhead projector to project this sketches on a canvas, drew the projected image and finally paint it.” His way of working is very similar to the work of illustrators of comics or how graphic designers work today in Photoshop. Clarke: “My first layer was always the black outline. Then I painted a colored layer underneath using the line drawing as an overlay. This is the same technique Disney cartoonists used years ago. Of course, when I was developing it as my own way of working, I didn’t know that. For the actual painting, I use large stencils. I lay them onto the canvas and sponge the paint on. This way there are no brush strokes. Sometimes, I overlay the stencils so that you get the sort of effect you see when a picture isn’t printed quite right -just a little offset. I like that irregular edge”. Just like the works by Andy Warhol or Jean-Michelle Basquiat, John Clem Clarke’s oeuvre is complete with imperfections: “Instead of painting out my “mistakes”, I let them stay on the canvas as alternative solutions to the painting and to show the thought process in making a painting. It bothers me when things look too good. I like to paint and paint and paint, until I get it wrong.”

On weekends, Clarke still roams around flea and antiques markets, looking for vintage retro objects, advertising material and photographs he can use as a point of departure for his artworks. The great ads from the fifties and early sixties are a big source of inspiration: “I try to make the paintings seem as commercially produced as possible. People grew up looking at commercial illustration and print advertising, so they are comfortable with it as a visual style. I make art in a way that people find it immediately accessible”.
Clarke found his future as an artist in his past through the subject matter, themes and styles of forties, fifties & sixties. But Clarke’s works also speak of the present, the moment he creates them, by his vision & the personal touch of his brushstroke.

In the 1910s, the Coca-Cola Company ran an ad of a gorgeous woman drinking a Coke. The copy read: “Nothing is so suggestive of Coca-Cola’s own pure deliciousness as the picture of a beautiful, sweet, wholesome, womanly woman.”
Associating itself with an ideal American girl, Coca-Cola made its appeal to the public. Clarke takes this advertising concept one step further and combines the “Coca-Cola girl” billboard with the all American theme of a police car chase. His painting “Police Behind Cola Billboard” is so filmesque, that we actually wonder what will happen next…

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Alvin Richard, A Celebration of Realism

Alvin Richard is a self-taught classical-modern painter, with the hand & the eye of an old master. His exceptional “Realist” paintings are the product of natural artistic talent and heartfelt passion.
Living in New Brunswick, Canada, Richard is working full-time as a registered nurse and moonlighting as an artist. He has been painting with acrylics for more than 20 years. Richard’s work includes still lifes, street scenes and figure studies.

Corner Store no. 2

Acrylic polymer emulsion on gessoed hardboard, 6 x 6″
“In July 2007, we spent a getaway week-end in Halifax, NS. Early that Sunday morning, I left the hotel for a run around Point Pleasant Park when I passed in front of this corner store at the other end of Barrington Street that was appropriately name Olympic Confectionery. It still surprises me that these type of corner store facade still exist today. Hopefully when the time has come, these will be restored instead of replaced.”

Pop Tent

Acrylic polymer emulsion on gessoed MDF, 18 x 18″
“One thing that wakes you up in the morning when you are camping, is the bright sun. On one of those morning, I realized that the inside of a tent might be an unusual setting for a still life. Fast forward…. Jean-Luc, our then 11 year old son and I, had done some backyard camping and the tent was still up on the lawn, when I did this study.
My fascination with this subject is how the light filters through these bright colored drinks and become illuminated, almost as if they have their own power source.”

Empties

Acrylic polymer emulsion on gessoed hardboard, 6 x 6″
“The Coca-Cola bottle is one of the most recognized commercial products, both for it’s famous logo created by the inventor’s bookkeeper, Frank Mason Robinson in 1885, and for it’s equally famous contour bottle of greenish tint glass. I have realized that the empty version is much more suitable to paint. There are areas that sparkles like tiny emeralds in the light.”

Are we there yet?

Acrylic polymer emulsion on gessoed hardboard, 14 x 20″

You can find more about Alvin Richard’s credo of art & life on his personal blog.

Rubens LP, Drawings from the Soul

Brazilian-born Rubens LP remembers spending hours as a child drawing comic heroes like Wolverine, Superman, Batman and the X-men with his father. But even though he stopped drawing for a number of years after that, somehow that passion never left him, and by the time he was in college he was drawing all the time.
Exhibitions of Dali, Picasso, Miró and the Brazilian artist Aldemir Martins also made a strong impression on him. One glance at his works show that despite its contemporary outlook, there’s a traditional heart beating within.

For Rubens LP, creating artwork is about inspiring people, and true art has a unique kind of beauty. It’s never about the money, but it’s always about being true to yourself.
LP also loves to read, and feels he’s discovering the world through studying philosophy, socialism and religion. Perhaps tellingly, he explains: ” I don’t draw with my mind; I draw with the soul. And everything inspires my soul. Everything”.

Rubens LP’s clients include Smart, Brazilian model and actress Alinne Moraes, Absolut Vodka, Simyo, Borgata and Sony Ericsson. Here you can see the artworks Rubens LP designed for a Coca-Cola & MTV Brasil project.


Illustration for MTV Magazine


Billboard for Borgata Casino

You can check out more of the LP’s wonderful graphics on his personal website and on Fluxus Central, a portfolio of his commercial works.