Generic Art Solutions is a duo made up of artists Matt Vis and Tony Campbell. The two artists comment on present day anxiety by re-imagining classic paintings. Their photographs are carefully staged, often to resemble classic works of art. Their images are clearly populated with subjects, clothing, and settings that are all modern. However, the compositions immediately bring to mind the paintings of Caravaggio, Goya, and Marat. Perhaps a reason the images of the classic artwork and re-imagined in the duo’s photographs are still relevant is because people have never moved beyond the anxieties and problems that plagued us centuries ago. The gallery statement for their upcoming exhibit at Miami’s Mindy Solomon Gallery expounds on that point:
“The work of Generic Art Solutions (whether it be a photograph, performance, video, or print) begins with a thoughtful re-examination of the human condition, and the effect of recurring cycles of technological advancements and cultural awakenings. But, how much has mankind really evolved? Aren’t we essentially still making the same mistakes? According to the artists, it would certainly seem so. Compare Gericault’s famed painting ‘The Raft of the Medusa,’ 1819, to the G.A.S. representation of Deepwater Horizon’s oil spill in April 2010, as depicted in their photographic work ‘The Raft’ (2010): these two artworks portray shockingly similar tales of human suffering brought on by corporate greed. Or, take Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’ commemorating the French Revolution in 1830, and the perpetual revolutionary uprisings of the Arab Spring as seen in G.A.S.’s ‘Liberty,’ 2011. The artists state: “However evolved we may think we are, the folly of human behavior is still the root of all societal (dis)functions. This is a sobering thought that demands attention. But there is a message of hope in these contemporary homages: through thoughtful reexamination and a commitment to change, we can break the cycle of repeating our mistakes.”
Nøne Futbol Club is a duo of Paris based artists. They work in a wide variety of mediums and forms from video to installation. However, nearly all of their work seems to be tied together by a certain mischievous sense of humor. Though not always overtly political, the duo’s art is definitely subversive. For example, consider Lift a Finger, the first piece pictured here. The maneki-neko, usually a statuette of a welcoming or beckoning cat suddenly becomes hostile with a simple change of hand gesture. The pharase “KEEP WARM BURNOUT THE RICH” is turned into a branding iron. The implement not only burns, but more importantly is a tool for displaying and designating ownership.
Nicolas Rosette goes onto describe the duo’s practice saying:
“Nøne Futbol Club is a duo that is capable of mobilizing as many accomplices as necessary to make their works and performances.
The playful component is inseparable from their creative process which tackles the world like a playground for the expression of an art whose nature has continually bordered on the cellophane of the white cube and the great palaces must take the risk of being a mass distribution product. The recursive principle in their work is reversal. It is not about diverting elements from pop culture(or popular culture, the term changing depending on whether this culture comes to us from one side or the other of the Atlantic Ocean) but of a reversal whose final address is always popular culture. A double inversion, whose process of revelation reflects back to us as in a mirror the possible destiny of an art world which has become less subtle than the current popular media cultures; whose practices of critical and jubilatory diversions are the foundation. Would the Nøne Futbol Club be applying to contemporary art what digital cultures have subjected Chuck Norris, the pope and Darth Vader to?”
It is almost difficult to believe that these self-portraits by Spanish Eloy Morales are oil paintings. His oil painting are generally executed on large panels such as the one above. Morales carefully blends colors and layers to flawlessly recreate his portraits. He nearly seems to consider each painting a separate test of his abilities. Morales is known to write notes prior to a painting of goals to meet that he felt weren’t met on a previous work. However, there is more to his work then a simple recreation of a photorgaph. Morales explains in Poets and Artists Magazine:
“I am interested in working on reality through the use of pictorial codes, previously understanding that it is a false relation and I always keep in mind that painting is an independent expression. Finding a meeting point that truly represents my vision keeps me going on painting.” [via ignant]
The paintings of Victor Castillo have a unique eerie style. He began drawing from a young age inspired by cartoons, comics, and album covers. Castillo finally attended art school but found himself disillusioned with his time there. After leaving school he spent some time working with an experimental art collective in his native country of Chile. Next Castillo relocated to Barcelona, Spain. It is in Barcelona that his signature style solidified.
His painted world are most noticeably populated by children wearing clown-like masks: a red nose protrudes from a white face and any eyes are conspicuously absent. Though the masks smile, there is something disturbingly insincere about the expressions. Castillo carefully sets up each scene of his paintings almost as a sort of visual parable. A small narrative unfolds hinting at a larger message. Political themes such as greed or abuse of power begin to emerge within the symbolism of each piece. Castillo makes use of narrative tools often found not only in painting, but also comics. A statement from a past solo exhibit at the Jonathan Levine Gallery further explains the symbolism behind his paintings:
“In this exhibition, Castillo’s allegorical visions of the current socio-economic world crisis come in the form of spooky children’s tales. Through acrylic works on canvas and drawings on paper, his cast of masked, hollow-eyed children serve as a vehicle to convey ominous narratives of survival, greed and indoctrination. Inspired by vintage animation, his paintings are like theatrical sketches of tragicomic situations. With cartoon-like figures in the foreground and lush, classical landscapes in the background, Castillo’s dramatic baroque lighting completes the effect of exposing corrupted innocence.”
Artist Eyal Gever mixes two and three dimensions to capture the movement of destruction. For these installations Gever begins with a three dimensional model of an explosion that is split into ten layers. The layers are transformed into inkjet prints on acrylic, hung, and lit from underneath. Combining the ten layers gives the piece a strange sort of depth and seems to freeze time. Viewing the sculpture, though motionless, you begin the anticipate the motion and unfolding of the explosion as if it were a running algorithm. Gever explains the technology and concept behind his work saying:
“My sculptures are created from software I have developed. I am influenced by the destructive impact within our environment. Uncontrollable power, unpredictability and cataclysmic extremes are the sources for my work. They inspire, fascinate and remind me of the constant fragility and beauty of human-life. Beauty can come from the strangest of places, in the most horrific events. My art addresses these notions of destruction and beauty, the collisions of opposites, fear and attraction, seduction and betrayal, from the most tender brutalities to the most devastating sensitivities. I oscillate between these opposites. Using my own proprietary 3D physical simulation technologies, I have developed computational models for physical simulation, computer animation, and geometric modeling. Combining applied mathematics, computer science, and engineering, my work captures and freezes catastrophic situations as cathartic experiences.”
Check out the videos above and after the jump to see how the three dimensional images are sliced.
Artist Wen Fang has a way turning an eye toward the often overlooked. In a way, some of her work memorializes the unfortunately common. This first installation – a room filled with hanging knives printed with images of garbage – is titled Rain and illustrates this well. She explains the personal story and Chinese idiom behind the installation:
“One day I was on a public bus, heading to a suburban enclave not far from my home on the outskirts of Beijing. The road was lined on both sides by filthy, stagnant drainage ditches. The disgusting smell of the water wafted into the bus, immediately wiping out the hunger I was feeling a moment before. The water was blue-grey, and looked quite thick. The surface was covered in floating instant noodle packages, popsicle sticks, rotting vegetables and other garbage that couldn’t be sold as scrap. Suddenly I saw a stray dog at the edge of the ditch, trying to drink the water. Several times he would approach the water with his snout, only to be repulsed by the powerful stench. In the end, I guess he was just too thirsty, and he hesitantly stuck his snout in the water, taking a few gulps. It sent pangs through my heart. Lots of migrants live by the drainage ditches. Their kids run around like wild dogs, and are just about as dirty. About half of their toys were picked up along the side of this road. None of the adults control their actions, as these migrant workers are too busy trying to eke out a living, and the old people just sit there by the side of the road. The Chinese refer to these situations as knives raining down from the heavens…that is to say; this is the worst it can get…I don’t know if this is the worst possible situation, but these knives often cut right into my heart. That’s why I make them, so that everyone can see these knives. Economic development is a sound idea, but how much money does it take to be truly wealthy? I spent my childhood playing in the wilderness around here, while these kids are spending their childhoods playing on the trash heaps. I really wish these kids could grow up in gardens, just as we promised. But what I really don’t know is, when we finally have enough money, whether or not the garden will be anything more than a bunch of sharp knives.…”
Artist Nathan Walsh‘s paintings of urban environments seem impressively realistic. The attention to detail in turn demands the viewers attention to small pockets of each canvas. Varying textures, reflections on water and glass, effects of light are all captured so acutely, it’s nearly mesmerizing. Exploring each piece is similar to exploring that little patch of neighborhood as a tourist. However, it is Walsh’s careful attention to perspective that set his work apart. It is easy to understand why he may often be lumped in with a larger group of Photorealist painters. However, close consideration of his work reveals Walsh isn’t set on a meticulously faithful reproduction of a photograph or scene. Rather, he seems to endeavor to depict the idea of a space, the feeling of depth.
In his essay on the artist, Michael Parasko expounds on this and writes concerning Walsh’s use of perspective:
“The way Walsh constructs pictorial space takes two forms. The first is a horizontal extension and the second an illusion of depth. Both are exaggerated so that neither method results in the reproduction of nature; yet in such exaggerations Walsh has sought to create believable space. We are convinced into thinking these are images of the world as it is, but the truth is that space in these paintings is not really like the space we inhabit at all. They seem to prove Quintallian’s old adage, ‘The perfection of art is to conceal art.’…Although there is real quality in the way Walsh extends space in this lateral way, my personal view is that Walsh’s most individual works are concerned with the illusion of deep space within the canvas. In these there is a real sense of an artist balancing the need to maintain the illusion of reality with the desire to push the illusion of very deep space to its limits.”
Even in his commercial work French photographer Laurent Chehere clearly has a creative and curious eye for his surroundings. An avid traveler, Chehere enjoys exploring the cities he visits. This becomes especially evident in his series Flying Houses. The series contains a number of photographs of floating buildings. The buildings seem otherwise ordinary, perhaps tethered by power lines, quietly floating in the sky. Chehere achieved the effect by taking photographs of buildings throughout the suburbs of Paris and digitally manipulating them. A gallery statement (translated from French) from a recent solo exhibit explains Chehere’s inspiration for the series:
“The artist isolates buildings from their urban context and frees them from their stifling environment. Houses fly in the clouds, like kites. Inspired by a poetic vision of old Paris and the famous short film The Red Balloon by Albert Lamorisse, Laurent Chéhère walked the districts of Belleville and Ménilmontant gazing at their typical houses. The images of the artist seize an unexpected levitation: held to the ground by unseen hands, like so many balloons used by the boy, these old buildings floating in the sky, sliding on the surface, they reveal to us their hidden beauty. Some houses are adorned with drying laundry or flower pots, outweigh other brands and shops fleeing the flames of a fire … All seem to find a second life. Uprooted from their hometown, they go to new heights. It’s a true invitation to travel and metaphor for the transience of the world, Flying Houses Laurent Chéhère’s series plunges us into a dreamlike and changing world full of gaiety and humor.”