Born in Switzerland, Mathias Schmied manipulates comic books and magazine images to create wall installations, collages and drawings. His works are pop images transformed. Cut-out graffiti and superheroes take on all new representation and meaning through Schmied’s cautious hand and razor blade. The easily recognizable content of Schmied’s found images becomes confused through his dissection. Pages where all real content has been removed feel empty and even somewhat sad. Depicting only what’s left behind from superhero stories feels like the newspaper without the news. We can only begin to guess at what’s going on.
Other works, such as the “landscapes,” are combinations of explosive imagery. A motif repeated becomes a humorous apocalypse of comic explosions. And Schmied’s “movie soundtracks” depict the “pows” and “kabooms” seen in comics, jumping off the wall and moving into a viewer’s space. Perhaps my favorite are Schmied’s Rorschach comics, which consist of a cut out the figure that Schmied situated in such as way so that he is mirroring his negative space.
Fun, but also thoughtful and engaging, Schmied’s work is both smart and nostalgic.
Michael Grab creates his own version of land art by balancing rocks in seemingly impossible ways. Using a learned technique involving patience and a sense of balance Grab finds the process therapeutic and meditative. Grab refers to the work as “gravity glue” and says of the work, “Through witnessing what this art has done for me personally over years of practice, my vision grows more and more to encourage others to seek their own “still-point” or inner silence…This art allows one to freely be themselves, manifesting their own particular vibration into a 3D world.”
Grab believes that stone balancing teaches the practitioner lessons through silence. Using language that describes the benefits of self-realization through meditation Grab discusses stone balancing as a spiritual experience. He describes how the fundamental element in balancing is finding a kind of “tripod” for the rock to stand on. Explaining how each rock requires examination to discover the point of balance, Grab says that the biggest challenge is overcoming doubt. Both honoring nature and the importance of time spent by himself Grab believes that the ephemeral nature of the balance encourages contemplations of non-attachment, beauty and even death.
Grab is available for workshops and live performances. Check his website for any upcoming exhibitions so that you can see his process live.
Matika Wilbur is a Pacific Northwest photographer who is part of the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes (Washington). In her unique position as both an artist and a social documentarian Wilbur became interested in capturing the contemporary Native identity and experience of Native Americans. Originally simply curious about her own identity and the way it grappled with how she felt others perceived her, Wilbur began a small project on her community’s elders. That small project morphed into an ambitious process of documentation.
With great insight, depth and passion Wilbur began Project 562. Despite the current cultural, economic and political progression of the Native Americans Wilbur was distraught by the strong and incorrect stereotypes that prevail. The 2010 census shows about 5.2 million Native Americans living in the United States and Wilbur feels it is important to portray how this significant population lives today. Thus she embarked on a 60,000 mile roadtrip to begin documenting citizens of each of the more than 560 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States.
Along with photographs, Wilbur is taking oral narratives from all Tribal communities. Seeking out elders, cultural bearers, linguists, teachers, activists, artists, professionals and other contemporary Native Americans Wilbur is organizing her photographs and stories into a comprehensive and through project. As Wilbur explains, “My goal is to represent Native people from every tribe. By exposing the astonishing variety of the Indian presence and reality at this juncture, we will build cultural bridges, abandon stereotypes, and renew and inspire our national legacy.”
Sparking conversation about Edward Curtis, Wilbur responds to comparisons by saying that Curtis was a white man, who would bring his own “props” and pair clothing with the incorrect tribe—rarely even bothering to know the names of his subjects. Wilbur, on the other hand, wants to know the stories of her subjects and wants to portray them accurately, shunning the stereotypes Curtis’ photographs, to this day, perpetuate.
Having just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign Wilbur will continue with her project. A collection of images and interviews will be on display at The Tacoma Art Museum in May.
I remember when my mom first told me that the dryer ate socks. I immediately ran and took all of my socks out of the hamper because I wanted to save them. Playing with this idea that inanimate objects have a life of their own graphic designer Yoonjin Lee started the “Little Lost Project.” Lamenting when we lose our iphone, or our wallet, Yoonjin, who calls herself Zoonzin, wondered about the smaller things that go missing. What happens to that lighter that seemingly just walked out of our pocket? Does it miss us? Do we miss it? Does it belong to someone else now?
Giving these small objects a voice and a personality Zoonzin picks up lost objects she discovers on the streets of New York City. She takes them home and makes them little signs. Some forsaken objects are sad, others angry that their owners could be so careless with them, but each has a distinct personality. Zoonzin then takes them back out onto the streets and arranges them; a unique kind of street art. Holding their signs as if they were protesters, or homeless, Zoonzin’s little lost and found objects draw attention and a smile from passersby. Giving a story and another life to those small things we might not even notice we lost, Zoonzin’s Little Lost Project is funny, but also engaging in its commentary about our culture, what we value and how we treat our possessions. You can follow the ongoing project on her facebook or tumblr.
Nothing if not disturbing, Alex Van Gelder’s Meat Portraits portray carcasses, flesh, entrails, organs and other animal parts from an abattoir in Benin. Found and photographed in the marketplace, or carefully staged into contorted compositions, Van Gelder’s photographs are corporeality at its most raw. Thoughtfully describing them as portraits rather than some kind of protest, or statement, Van Gelder is specific about his process. The photographs possess an abstraction that is compelling and unnerving. The artist says of his work, “African butchers don’t use electric saws as Europeans do but cut up the meat by hand which produces a variety of styles.The slaughterhouse was in the open air and in front of it a small market where they would sell the still warm meat. I worked there on and off for one year producing my Meat Portraits. I consider these portraits still lives.”
Appalling and even nauseating in their uncensored savage-ness, there is a strange beauty to the images when one steps back and pretends they’re something other than meat. Surprisingly not a vegetarian, Van Gelder’s images are less about animal rights and more about the emotionally evocative formal qualities the camera can capture.
Constance & Eric are a married couple from Brooklyn who have carved a niche and figured out how to make a living taking pictures of people having sex. Blurring the lines between high art and commercial photography, the duo have photographed over 140 couples. Beginning the project out of disappointment in the way commercial photography generally treats bodies and sex, the couple came up with their own parameters for “sexy.” Disenchanted, as many of us are, by the narrow definition advertising and media give to the term, Constance and Eric decided to pursue a visual journey through the erotic and corporeal.
Subtle in their abstraction, the duo’s photographs transcend pornography or explicit imagery and become mere suggestions of the actual act. But there is a sensual nature to the images that feels incredibly personal, even if a viewer can’t actually discern what precisely he is looking at. In an interview with Nerve, Constance said, “The abstract images help create more of a feeling of the moment. It enables the viewer to put themselves in the image without the distraction of recognizable features.”
In an interview with Huffington Post Constance and Eric said that the part of their job they enjoy the most is “Showing people how beautiful they are together.” Check out their website, and if you’re brave enough, grab your significant other and contact them for a session. (via HuffPost & Nerve)
installation to raise awareness about wildfire in Texas
One of the only independent buyers in the world who maintains an account with Crayola, Herb Williams is a bit obsessed. Living and working in Nashville, TN, Williams uses tens of thousands of crayons to create his often life-size sculptures. Williams pursues both play and larger ideas; he is interested in identifying iconic objects that society perceives to fit one role, and then reintroducing them in a different subtext. Williams explores concepts such as childhood, sexuality, religion and social hierarchy all using crayons. Considering everything down to the smell (crayons of course) that his sculptures exude Williams works meticulously, cutting down crayons to the size he needs and individually bonding them to create his forms.
For a special project for the National Heritage Center, for example, Williams created an outdoor installation meant to raise awareness about wildfire. The installation consisted of three freestanding sculptures, which abstractly resembled fire that slowly melted in the Texas weather conditions. Created in vivid colors the installation provided a stark contrast to the dry, brown landscape and certainly was reminiscent of an actual wildfire. A unique way to draw attention to a serious problem, the installation remained standing from October through the end of the year.
A common enough material, Williams has managed to give crayons a wholly new purpose in art making. As he says, “my intent is to continue to seriously create art that looks at itself unseriously.” See more of his work and read about him on his website.
Kathryn Andrews explores issues relating to performance, presentation and material. Juxtaposing the legacies of pop art and minimalism, Andrews’ works direct a viewer to consider the way subjectivity is constructed in contemporary culture. In the process, Andrews’ works manage to subvert the very art historical categories they reference. Using fabricated forms alongside readymade objects sourced from the likes of prop shops, memorabilia stores or party supply outlets Andrews’ pieces become a powerful contrast between high art and pseudo-kitsch—shiny, serious mirrored surfaces reflect colorful, strange yet common objects. In the reflection the viewer sees himself, thus becoming part of the narrative and generation of information and understanding.
Entertaining similar interests in her two-person exhibition with fellow Los Angeles artist, Alex Israel, at Gagosian in Rome, Andrews and Israel present works that explore a dialogue about specifically the readymade. The show is up through March 14 and you can see images here.