What happens when a classic Victorian illustrator lives through poverty, World War I, and the deaths of a sister, mother, and wife; all in the space of a few years? Louis Wain (1860-1939) has become a famous case study in mental illness. Wain, who became famous in the early twentieth-century for his pioneering, whimsical illustrations of anthropomorphic cats, suffered a mental breakdown at the age of 64, and spent the remaining 15 years of his life in various mental institutions. The Chris Beetles Gallery of London recently exhibited a host of works from various points in his career.
Where to start with Jay Howell? The legendary laidbacksman and zinester, recently relocated to Los Angeles by way of San Francisco, seems to have taken good vibes to every corner of every creative cul de sac. Howell, who participated in the group show “Supply and Demand” at Brooklyn’s House of Vans early this fall, works his quirky, character-driven vision onto all available formats. His trademark dudes, rockers, and big-breasted babes have graced gallery walls, skate decks, apparel, original cartoons, original “nickelodeon cartoons”, album covers (he has serious ties to the musical community), and public spaces. Sometimes it feels like he has a message, but then you kind of wonder whether it’s really reflected in his work or not. And then you’re just like, dude, who cares?
Bill Sullivan‘s large-scale works; which cover a range of meaty subject matter from lucid portraits of unwitting subjects in the street, to confounding postmodern digital prints on canvas, are both visually appealing and conceptually titillating. Even while navigating such a wide artistic breadth, Sullivan’s work is still pulled under one umbrella; that of the artist’s mind. Sullivan applies a piece of his own subjective vision to all his material, it doesn’t matter what the specific subject matter is. And this is all that can be asked of an artist.
Most know Liz Harris as the wonderfully effecting ambient/drone project that is Grouper, but the Portland artist has steadily begun to bring her visual work to the public as well. It makes sense that the source of Grouper’s haunting, rhythmic drive would also produce these meticulous, ghostly patterns and figures. Employing ink on paper, Harris provides images that suck the viewer into her world and spit them back out as quickly as they came. These drawings and prints on paper are concentrated visual doses of a Grouper album’s sonic power, yet maintain a presence all their own. It is clear that Harris has one vision, and is skilled enough to express this (strong) artistic inclination within multiple forms.
Guy Denning of Bristol, UK has been putting out emotive, figurative paintings for almost two decades. He works mostly in oil, perhaps the perfect medium for working with the human figure due to its unique luminous qualities, and he takes the guesswork out of using art as a mirror for the human condition by directly rendering our anguish and strife in muted, stylized tones. He also maintains a pretty awesome daily drawing blog.
The graphics-heavy street work of Malark, found primarily in and around London and Barcelona, dominates space with color block characters of quirk. But it’s not Malark’s attractive, sharp-toothed chroma buddies that make this stuff so special. What is so attractive about this artist is that he gets up relentlessly, and on all surfaces- walls, cars, trucks, storefronts; and, benevolently, our brains.
Daniel St. George is a fine artist living in Brooklyn, NY who has steadily amassed a body of work that is equal parts entertaining, eclectic, and engrossing. St. George blends elements of collage, printmaking, painting, and drawing to create clever inverted representations of classic cartoon and pop icons; often placed into dynamic interaction with a found paperback leaf or music score in a personal, methodical context that is all his own.
Zero Cents is a Tel Aviv-based artist with a furious repertoire of grotesque, figurative imagery. Found both in galleries and on walls, these works go beyond the average “get-under-your-skin” fare, as they are rendered in a seemingly care-free, playful fashion. Taking us right to the point where we may be too overwhelmed by subject matter to connect, Zero Cents redeems everything with light dustings of spray paint, undeniably human brushstrokes, and sardonic installations.