1. William T. Wiley
William T. Wiley was born in 1937, and his work is spanning a wide range of techniques such as painting, drawing, film, sculpturing, pinball, and performance. Part of Wiley’s work falls into the category ‘funk art’.
For more than fifty years, Wiley has challenged the precepts of all sorts of mainstream art. His work cannot easily be classified into particular a stylistic trend or movement. He has continuously been developing his own distinctive style and he combined found objects, humble materials, personal items and symbols, and enigmatic texts with art history, current events, and popular culture.
Wiley’s specific style can perhaps best be described as ‘varied, inventive, and subtle. Wiley’s impressive practices are ranging from painting in acrylic and watercolor, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, to performance and film. Among the defining hallmarks of Wiley’s work are the wordplay and the texts that are accompanying practically all of his pieces.
2. Annie Leibovitz
Annie Leibovitz is recognized as one of the best portrait photographers in America. She had developed her personal trademark of using bold colors and poses at the times she worked for Rolling Stone Magazine. Annie was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, on October 2, 1949, and in 1970 she got a job as photographer at Rolling Stone where she made it to the position of chief photographer, and created the distinctive look for the magazine.
In 1983, Annie Leibovitz started to work for Vanity Fair, the entertainment magazine. Here she continued to produce photographs and images that were sometimes regarded as provocative, but also iconic.
She also has been working on several high-profile ad campaigns, and her images were also featured at major exhibitions and in several books. In 2005, Leibovitz published an interesting book titled ‘A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005’ which is including a lot of her trademark celebrity portraits.
3. Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928, and died in 2014, on May 28. She was a well-known civil rights activist and respected writer, famous for memoirs titled ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’, published in 1969. The impressive book was actually the first best-selling nonfiction book written by an African-American woman. In 1971, Maya Angelou published a poetry collection titled ‘Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Die’ which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
As a teenager, Maya went to California to study dance and drama in San Francisco, and she worshiped at Unity San Francisco. At age 14, Maya dropped out of school and became the first African-American female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. Later she wrote one of her most famous poems, titled ‘On the Pulse of Morning’. Maya recited this masterpiece at the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton. Maya Angelou received numerous honors during her impressive career, such as 2 NAACP Image Awards (in 2005 and 2009) in the category outstanding nonfiction literary work.
4. David Park
David Park lived from 1911 to 1960. He was a famous painter and one of the founders the Bay Area Figurative Movement. Park is well-known for his intensely colored and thickly painted portraits. David Park was born in Boston, Massachusetts, but in 1028 he moved to Los Angeles to study at the famous Otis Art Institute. After just one year, he dropped out, though.
In 1944, David started as a teacher at the California School of Fine Arts, today known as the San Francisco Art Institute, where he was adopting the then-dominant abstract expressionist painting mode. During the many years that he stayed there, he became befriended with fellow painters like Elmer Bischoff and Richard Diebenkorn.
David Park has decisively influenced the Bay Area art direction in those days by starting a historically important new painting direction. Today, the Bay Area Figurative Movement is seen as San Francisco’s most important contribution to contemporary American art.
Park’s creative showcased at exhibits at for example Los Angeles’ Paul Kantor Gallery, the Museum of California in Oakland, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the renown Palo Alto Art Center.
5. Kota Ezawa
Kota Ezawa was born in 1969. The San Francisco-based Japanese-German artist and educator is famous for his computer-animated films that include historical events set in different contexts.
Kota Ezawa’s work is meticulously recreating (frame-by-frame), animated sequences derived from cinema, film, television, or art history, while the artist uses animation software and basic digital drawing. His work displays a fantastically stylized mixture of Alex Katz, Pop Art, and paint-by-numbers picture frames, just to some of his stylistic artistic antecedents.
One of Kota’s works, ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, published in 2005, is using Milan Kundera’s famous book title for the animation of the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln.
The source material he uses for Kennedy and Lincoln is, respectively, the Zapruder 8-mm film of Kennedy’s assassination, and a segment from the 1915 D.W. Griffith film ‘Birth of a Nation’.
The way Ezawa re-animates these horrific, but at the same time familiar, historic happenings is giving this work an emotional charge. Ezawa is forcing us to acknowledge the cultural and historic distance between the depicted figures, which appear prominently in the public memory of America, and ourselves.