Celebrated artist Alberto Giacometti once said, “The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity.” Giacometti was an artist noted for his abstraction and deconstruction of the human form, which he depicted through a multitude of sculptures, paintings and drawings in elongated shape and scumbled lines. Figurative paintings and portraiture are nothing new, yet subgenres of portraiture continue to emerge, survive and move us. The common phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” aptly applies, and the activation of perception, observation and process are represented in beautiful and intricate ways in the four contemporary artists whose work is featured here. Featured artists include: Karim Hamid, Colin Chillag, Borondo and Angela Fraleigh.
We are a society mesmerized by extremes. In our fascination with art this generally translates into obsession with magnitude, scale and sheer quantity, while our consumption tendencies of technological objects tends to swing the opposite, manifesting in compact phones-computers-everything else in one hand held device. The works featured here are as mind blowing as the compactness of current computer software programs, packing so much detail into such tiny confines. All of the works here are created on standard matchbooks, with the painted or drawn imagery measuring in at no more than four inches of length on any given piece. Joseph Martinez, Mike Bell, Jason D’Aquino and Krista Charles all demonstrate immense technical skill in their matchbook art.
The end of 2013 is just around the corner and we are in the mode of individually and collectively reflecting back on the past year and looking towards the coming year. The List is one of the ways we do this and the practice of making lists is in full force right now. Lists like 50 Best Albums of 2013, Top Five Artists To Watch In 2014, Highest Paid Actors/Actresses Of The Year, the classic new years resolutions lists, and so on, are everywhere. We are obsessed with lists. And as I personally began compiling categorical articles that are essentially lists in their own right on Beautiful Decay in 2013, covering topics like 8 Heavy Metal Artists and 6 Artists Who Work With Trash, I felt it only appropriate to finish the year with a list based article covering artists who have used the format of the list in their artworks.
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.