Pierre And Gilles’ Pop Icon Portraits Made With Sex And Glitter

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Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard – Pierre and Gilles – have made portraits of Madonna, Jean Paul Gaultier, Andy Warhol, and Iggy Pop, just to name a few. The portraits are sexually charged and totally fantastical. Their subjects are placed under water, surrounded by flowers, or in what looks like a McDonalds ball pen (a not so subtle reference, in the tradition of most of their portraiture). Their kitschy and outlandish aesthetic has had them attain international recognition; they’re included in collections like the MoMA’s and have had a major retrospective at the New Museum in 2000.

Not only do they work together professionally, they have also been together as a couple for the duration of their shared career. Pierre is the photographer, and Gilles does the painting afterward. According to a VMagazine interview, the entire process of one portrait takes them about three weeks:

“We do everything from creating the décor to taking the picture to constructing the frame. We are always inspired by the person’s personality.”

Although their sexual orientation is a large part of their public persona, they say they are cautious not to pigeonhole themselves into what they call the “gay ghetto” and for this reason take portraits of a variety of celebrities they admire, while maintaining their own distinct style.

Their aesthetic is whimsical and edgy. Certainly setting a man up fully nude peeing into a garden of flowers is not an image you will see every day. It’s provocative, but not aggressive, probably because of the teasing, over-the-top nature of the accompanying imagery. They find a way to playfully bring the mainstream out of its comfort zone so it seems like every day should be filled with sexy nuns riding bedazzled horses!

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Sean Landers’ Sexual Characters And Rants About The Art World

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Sean Landers creates sometimes proud, other times dejected characters with oddly proportioned or placed body parts. Their exaggerated features help to communicate the absurdity Landers seems to see all around us. For instance, the tiny naked butterfly-eared man that stands in front of a microphone as if to try to be heard. It’s a strange proposition.

Much of Landers’ work is covered in handwritten text. It’s difficult to discern in the digital image, but the breasts with rabbit ears, aptly titled “bunny boobs” begins:

“This is preposterous, this Landers is an outrage does he expect us to take him seriously? Not only does he mock modernism but he also writes his mindless drivel all over each of his abominations. I have never read such vapid writing in my life, and his paintings are bad student work. I look at his resume and find he’s been exhibiting all around the globe for the last decade. Has everyone gone mad? Or is it that our standards have been eroded to the point that a hack like Mr. Landers is a celebrated international art star.”

The outraged tone of the fictional art critic is Landers’ response to reception of his work. He ends by saying:

“I get to vent, my paintings get better, they sell, I get confident, bash critics, they bash me back, sales stop, then I have to start over again.”

It’s not clear if this is an invented scenario, or a pattern that Landers often experiences, but certainly this kind of self-deprecating voice flows through his characters as well as in his text. Still, “bunny boob” is smiling out at the viewer (or critic) which makes it seem that it’s ultimately teasing, and maybe more lighthearted than the attitude the text sets.

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Damien Hirst Made Artwork That’s Actually Good

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Damien Hirst’s exhibition at White Cube Sao Paolo, called Black Scalpel Cityscapes, is surprisingly compelling conceptually and technically intriguing. Hirst, though I’m sure I don’t really need to tell you this, reader, is a very divisive artist. His practice is a slippery one. It’s difficult to dismiss him, because he’s carved out a big space for himself in commercial galleries, but to some work, in example his spot paintings, feel a bit like an emperor wears no clothes scenario. It’s easy to argue that Hirst’s legacy is the success of his practice itself as a sort of art piece, and it would be true that he’s figured out some notable strategy for success, but whether it’s particularly honest or admirable is a question often dismissed by the powers that profit from Hirst or uphold his ideology.

In contrast to all this, Hirst’s most recent series is unexpectedly insightful. He recreates bird’s-eye view images of international cities using paint, surgical tools, and other industrial instruments. The materials for the Rio painting consist of Scalpel blades, skin graft blades, zips, stitching needles, aluminum filings, pins, stainless steel studs, fish hooks, steel wire cutting spool and gloss paint on canvas. On the White Cube website, Hirst’s statement reads:

Hirst investigates subjects pertaining to the sometimes-disquieting realities of modern life – surveillance, urbanisation, globalisation and the virtual nature of conflict – as well as elements relating to the universal human condition, such as our inability to arrest physical decay.

In the paintings, manmade features and natural elements such as buildings, rivers and roads are depicted in scalpels as well as razor blades, hooks, iron filings and safety-pins, all set against black backgrounds. For this exhibition, Hirst selected 17 cities, which are either sites of recent conflict, cities relating to the artist’s own life, or centres of economic, political or religious significance

What’s exciting about this series is that the themes Hirst claims to be examining are clear and his execution is effective. The paintings are visually impressive and also hold up conceptually, and most importantly, they tackle relevant political issues. Basically, it’s not bullshit. Congratulations, Damien Hirst. (Via The Fox is Black)

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Kendal Murray’s Incredibly Miniature Nature Scenes Built On Top Of Household Objects

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Kendal Murray - Sculpture

Kendal Murray makes miniature sculptures inventing various scenes with miniature characters, but whose stories are life sized. Scenes of families at the beach or sailing toy sailboats, and friends exploring a perilous landscape of wood clothes pegs are some of Murray’s creations. Her invented landscapes built atop compact mirrors, bowls, glass jars and teapots, and clutch purses exist somewhere between their own world and our own. Because they’re built on regular, albeit mildly nostalgic objects, the viewer is reminded of their existence in our own world, but they also seem to live in their own contained reality, ending at the limits of the object.

Some scenes are more absurd than others, like a woman standing proudly naked in front of a fully clothes man beside a fence. Another that’s particularly funny is one of a woman being chased by a swan while a man (who was presumably accompanying her) wanders through high reeds. Other scenes are more mundane, like a couple flossing and bathing in a bathroom together.

According to Ignant, the artist sees the miniature sculptures as an opportunity to explore identity. She says that dreams are where we’re able to experiment with different identities, and her sculptures are a manifestation of that possibility. (Via Ignant)

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Robert Larson Turns The Ugly & Destructive Act Of Smoking Cigarettes Into Something Unexpectedly Beautiful

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Robert Larson uses discarded cigarettes packaging, matchbooks, and rolling papers to create his compositions. Somewhat reminiscent of Tom Fruin’s drug baggies, the artist creates abstract patterns from smoking paraphernalia, and turns the ugly and destructive act of smoking into something unexpectedly beautiful.

Larson finds the materials by scavenging neighbourhoods in Santa Cruz, where he lives and works. There’s an interesting play between personal and impersonal in his work. The consistent grid of the items, be it shiny packaging or used matches, gives a sense of the systemic nature of urban life, while their individual treatment – worn by weather or use – sustains a sense of individual experience.

Cigarettes are rarely if ever associated with beauty, at least in our moment. Certainly in the past they were glamourized, but happily, people are beginning to see quite clearly their highly detrimental effect. Still, they maintain a heavy presence, and it’s exciting to see something positive come out of a predominantly negative thing. Larson’s compositions are surprisingly colourful and dynamic. He has a good eye for placement, as in the Marlboro packaging where he distributes the various tones of grey-brown wear to radiate outwards from the middle of the work. His pieces are mostly quite large, reaching over six feet. It makes me wonder how long it would take him to collect his materials, which could give him some understanding of the smoking population of each neighbourhood he collects from.

Images courtesy of CES Gallery

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Jonathan Payne’s Grotesque Body Sculptures Will Make You Cringe

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Jonathan Payne’s sculptures of remixed human body parts are utterly disgusting. Warty skin and overgrown toenails, a tooth-penis-nipple hybrid, and a tongue with teeth in place of taste buds are some of the highlights of his shudder-worthy pieces. The sculptures evoke a very physical reaction in the viewer. They are extremely life-like, and so it’s easy to project your own senses into the toes and teeth, to imagine what it would feel like to have those body parts connected together. They’re anxiety inducing, but you can’t look away, they’re so horrifyingly real. If you’re wondering what they’re made of to look so realistic, Payne uses super sculpey, polymer clay, acrylic, and human hair.

Payne calls the sculptures Fleshlettes, and in his description says that he’s interested in “bizarre and fantastical surrealist characters”. Surrealism was concerned very much with the psyche, and I think Payne’s work does a good job of withdrawing and exploring some deep set insecurities with ugliness and deformation in his strange body part sculptures.

In an article on the blog Street Anatomy, it’s listed that each sculpture has a kind of name and character. The toothed tongue, for instance, is Tonya, and she’s the mother of all Fleshlettes. The eyeball is named Eileen “for obvious reasons”. This sense of humour is refreshing and also seems to suit the strange though ultimately nonthreatening characters.

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27 Miles Of Scotch Tape Used To Create A Labyrinth Of Tunnels In The Sky

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Numen - Installation

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Numen, a European design collective, used 27 miles of scotch tape to create their most recent installation at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. We’ve posted about Numen’s jungle gym and flexible staircase before on Beautiful/Decay, and they’ve caught our eye once again! Viewers/participants are allowed to explore translucent tunnels that weave around columns and down staircases, mid air. The installation belongs to a group show called ‘Inside’ that “delves into the murky territory of both physical and psychological interiority, thematising immersion, introspection, and probing of the depths of self.”

Numen says their intention was to…

“transform the whole building into a convulsive mind/body organism whose slippery inner limits a motivated explorer has yet to trace and confront. The stretched biomorphic skin of Tape Paris is marking the entry point of the whole experience, being a literal incarnation of an inner-directed, regressive environment – the sense of descent into the primordial always lingering around its openings.”

…A lot to basically say that Numen has created an installation that seems like throughways for blood cells or passageways through time, and looks like it would be incredibly fun to crawl around in. It’s impressive in terms of engineering, imagination, and entertainment value, and it’s not hard to see how it relates to “interiority”, though I wouldn’t have put it in such convoluted terms. I might sound bitter about their project statement, but that’s probably because I can’t get myself to Paris to experience the real thing! (Via The Fox is Black)

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Ren Ri Collaborates With Bees To Create His Unconventional Sculptures

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Ren Ri is an artist who works with bees to make his contained beehive sculptures. He builds the plastic containers and places the wood dowels inside them to subtly guide the shape of the hive, and also rotates the sculpture every seven days to affect its form. The use of bees is especially relevant with the current affairs of suffering bee populations around the world, which could have a drastic and lasting effect on farming, but also the natural world in general.

Ri employs many strategies to work with bees. He performs with the bees, allowing them to sting his face, and has created a series of maps made of bees wax. According to Hi-Fructose, his aim in using the bees is to remove his subjectivity from the work. Although it certainly does remove a large degree of control, this is slightly problematic as he still intervenes by creating the object within which the bees form their hives, and further affects their process by rotating it. Complete objectivity seems pretty much unattainable in this scenario, as well as a false aspiration for any creative pursuit. Although there are obviously varying degrees of subjectivity, any intervention implies the influence of the author, and without the intervention Ri would be a beekeeper, not an artist. It’s interesting to experiment with degrees of control, but this is not an objective piece.

To me, the most interesting part of this project is the collaboration with the bees, as the final products are aesthetically appealing and call indirect attention to an issue of pertinence in the world today. (Via Hi-Fructose)

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