In the midst of the holiday season, with record cold temperatures in parts of the world and Winter Solstice, the shortest day/longest night of the year, upon us, I’ve been spending time studying work made with a simple organic material: Ice. Truth be told, despite spending my childhood in Minnesota, I now live in the desert, and the only ice I see is in my drinking glass. After studying art works made with ice as a central material, I am struck by a number of repeated inclinations by a number of artists. Much of the works I present here demonstrate that the transitory and temporal qualities of ice lend it to meaningful works about the body, time, climate, a sense of place and elements of endurance. Though this list is in no way exhaustive, artists included are: Marina Abramovic, Jay Atherton and Cy Keener, Nele Azavedo, Kirsten Justesen, Greatest Hits (a collective), Julie Rrap and Tavares Strachan.
Artists are magicians in their own right for making something from nothing, for infusing the everyday mundane tools and objects with poetic meaning and creating a whole new experience from it. In the holiday season, with a good part of society taking part in excess shopping, people are becoming increasingly conscious of what we discard. Our relationship to the accumulation of stuff and the level of waste humans produce seems to be collectively shifting. The artists whose work is shared here: David Ellis, Vik Muniz, Gabriel Kuri, Song Dong, Tim Noble and Sue Webster demonstrate the way individual artistic voices arise from this consciousness and the beautiful and often magical work that is informed by our accumulated or discarded stuff.
Fiber Arts have a longstanding history rooted in craft and tradition. Woven objects have tended to be functional or decorative, and often viewed more as the works of artisans, as opposed to artists. In the twentieth century this has begun to shift more, and in the 21st century the practice of weaving and knitting has been reclaimed and turned on its head by a number of artists that are forward thinking and highly skilled in their “craft.” Artists included here are: Olga de Amaral, Erin Riley, Olek, Ann Tilley and Andrea Sherrill Evans. It is important to note that historically weaving has been viewed as women’s work. All of the artists included in this post are women, yet appear to have adopted the practice of weaving and redefined it on their own terms, while becoming masters in the process.
Olek‘s work is an absolutely fantastical explosion of bright-textural fun. Often taking her work outside the white walls of galleries and into the streets, Olek has taken fibers to a place most thought impossible. Some of the works she has made recently include huge feats such as completely encasing the Wall Street Bull in neon crocheted and knitted camouflage pattern and re-adorning a whole locomotive in rainbow patterned softness- completely handwoven. Her work tends to encase and cover objects and people- creating whole installations, performance art costumes and beautiful sculptural objects in a sort of renegade demonstration of liberated punk-rock-quirk.
Lynda Benglis emerged decades ago as an artist breaking barriers and shifting paradigms. Pouring neon paints in exhibition spaces served not only as an action on the figure of the artist, but while these pieces created installations, the poured paint was also viewed and handled by Benglis as an object, and preserved as such. Years later her poured paint artworks are preserved and installed in their original format- which presents a transformative dynamic that the artist established.
Paint has historically been used to create imagery on a foundation- canvas, wood, paper, etc. In this common format the paint becomes an object of art only after joined with a substrate. Benglis was a forerunner in breaking away from this. Today there are a number of artists pushing forward on this notion, and breaking away further in the development of their bodies of work. Artists Linda Besemer, Margie Livingston, Ryan Peter Miller, Laura Moriarty, David Allan Peters and Leah Rosenberg all create works that demonstrate the vast spectrum with which paint as a medium has been torn from the substrate and presented conceptually and physically as a substance that can be molded.
Margie Livingston recently presented a new body of work in her solo exhibit “Objectified”at Luis De Jesus Gallery in Culver City. Having spent years casting and sculpting paint, Livingston’s portfolio demonstrates an evolved investigation into forms and space, substance and the function of the object. In her newest work she casts and sculpts acrylic paint alone into slabs that appear as wood planks, the patterning of hues reminiscent of wood grain. The wood-like planks, sheets and stumps are then used in the formation of minimalist sculpture.
Text phrases, words and letters abound in contemporary art, ranging widely from direct witty phrases to text that has become illegible in its adaptation. With increased crossover between different fields of art, the craft of editing text in literary arts is a skill and practice that has been incorporated into the visual arts more frequently. Jenny Holzer is an artist who comes to mind in this regard.
However, in this article I am examining the other polarity of text in art. As an artist who regularly uses text in my own art work, I am always interested in discovering the ways in which other artists step beyond the all too prevalent witty-one-liner on the wall into an artistic language that is far more expansive and uniquely cultivated. The artists included here demonstrate the beautiful grey area that emerges between abstract painting, graffiti, constructivist painting and the written word, to name a few. Here text becomes a vehicle for additional forms of communication, used as a foundation to expand upon with the artist’s particular vision or agenda.
Wendy White, Feodor Voronov, Glenn Ligon, Annie Vought, Jose Parla and Jel Martinez are all artists whose work takes text and language and pushes way outside the box. Wendy White’s use of the lines and structure of letters themselves is deconstructed and echoed in lines that emerge within her abstracted and color washed work. In the images of her work shared here, I particularly love the way in which she goes beyond the canvas in architecturally reconstructing the text-like elements along the border.
Death becomes us all eventually, as we are exploring in the works covered in this two part article. In light of the Halloween season, and the historical implications of death of this season, we are highlighting artists who create work that addresses or is informed by death and dying. Part 1 included and discussed the works of Damien Hirst, Doris Salcedo, Angelo Filomeno, Konrad Smolenski and Joel Peter Witkin. Here we examine the work of Andres Serrano, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Tereza Zelenkova and Oskar Dawicki.
Andres Serrano has built a reputation creating imagery that is shocking and confronts the viewer with heavy content, unapologetically. His series on death takes this to the next level. Each image, a close-up intimate composition of the deceased subject, is titled according to the cause of death. The Death Series functions as a mirror of our own mortality, delivered rawly and beautifully in rich colors and blank stares.
The work of Berlinde De Bruyckere is rough and organic, abstractly anatomical and animalistic in delivery. The artist’s sculptural work emanates a quality that lies somewhere between a murder scene and a meat locker. De Bruyckere’s pieces have a realistic quality of flesh torn apart yet are executed with fairly common artistic materials such as wax, wood, iron, cotton and wool is captivating.
Tereza Zelenkova created a series entitled Supreme Vice during a journey through the deserts of the Southwest. Captured in the bleakest and most barren of environments, Zelenkova’s photographic works meditate on death through a poetic narrative that seems to address a spiritual continuum that overlaps life and death and creates a bridge between the two polarities. The black and white series, that spans grey areas of mortality, is bound in a book, also entitled Supreme Vice.
The obituary series by Oskar Dawicki which was first exhibited in 2004 in a show aptly titled “The end of the world by accident” is far more ironic than the previously mentioned works. The photographic works capture collages Dawicki assembled of actual obituaries he discovered in the newspaper. The names of the deceased in the images appear to be celebrities and other famous figures at first glance. The works toy with the spectrum of perception of significance in the value of human life and death.
It’s Halloween season, and campy macabre aesthetic surrounds us, making the general public a little more open to the darker parts of our existence. Reflecting back on the origin of this holiday, All Hallow’s Eve and Samhain, the pagan celebration, it’s clear that death and the unseen world is the foundation. Our ancestors believed that the veil to the other side became thin or disappeared completely on this night, allowing the spirit world to comingle with the physical and living world. There are many people and cultures that still hold this belief and practice today.
In light of the season I began searching through aesthetically significant contemporary art that finds its foundations in death and dying. This is Part 1 of 2 of the scope of art about death, ranging widely in medium and other interwoven themes. Damien Hirst, Angelo Filomeno, Joel Peter Witkin, Konrad Smolenski and Doris Salcedo all embrace the subject of death and dying in a widely varied manner. As well, all are highly revered in their own right for their individual continuums of art produced over the years.
Damien Hirst is no stranger to controversy as an artist. He always delivers shock value well and does not shy away from creating work that makes viewers squirm. Materials he used to create the pieces featured here range from dead flies, to animal carcasses, formaldehyde and maggots. Hirst’s works don’t just discuss the business of birth, death and dying- they display it in action right before your eyes, in a way that some of the work nearly becomes about life itself.
This weekend on Beautiful Decay we want to welcome you over to the dark side, where a vast amount of artists are churning out contemporary art fueled by the fire of Metal. A multitude of artists these days are making art inspired by the crushing sounds and dark spirit of Heavy Metal, Death Metal and Doom music, all of which weave in and out of several other genres.
I’ve been a huge fan for a while now of the work made by artists Skinner, Ben Venom and Martin Durazo, which are strongly informed by Heavy Metal. This past week after chatting with artist and Beautiful Decay owner, Amir H. Fallah and artist Skinner and reaching out on Facebook to learn more about artists tied into this music scene, I was turned onto a breadth of incredible artists. A lot of artists working with metal as inspiration have strong crossover into design and illustration, album art, posters (especially for the band Mastadon), band merch and murals. There’s also a strong genre of work that explores dark spiritual matter, mythology and death that is absolutely captivating. You can expect upcoming coverage of these sub-genres in coming weeks.