Nobuhiro Nakanishi produces beautifully mesmerizing atypical landscapes. The Osaka, Japan-based artist creates the works, which he called “Layered Drawings,” by photographing a scene over a period of time. He then laser prints each image and mounts it to acrylic. Subtle changes emerge in each frame, and once they are layered they portray an untraditional landscape. As a viewer walks passed the work he or she experiences, to some degree, the passing of time within this particular place.
Interested in the way sculpture is defined by the thought, awareness and the method it employs, Nakanishi seeks to analyze the way we perceive the world. Experiencing a photographic landscape is generally a two-dimensional process whereby a viewer stands in front of an image. She can then empathize with the artist, seeing what he saw in the captured scene, but the experience is always a viewer looking at a flat surface. With Nakanishi’s works, the results are wholly different. The more physical, dimensional aspects of Nakanishi’s sculptural landscapes contain infinitely more detail. The effect is a richer experience. Our minds momentarily transport us to Nakanishi’s foggy forest in the morning, or to his hill overlooking a gorgeous sunset. Nakanishi’s landscapes trigger our memories and senses in a way traditional landscapes cannot.
Guy-Olivier Deveau’s sculptures would be fascinating in any medium, the fact that he works with sand and ice makes them that much more appealing and interesting. Deveau started out sand sculpting as a summer job in Quebec City so he could earn money to finance his education in the filed of philosophy. Now that he’s a sculptor full-time the Canadian artist travels around the world creating his ephemeral sculptures and competing in competitions. Though he also works with wood, snow and ice, Deveau appreciates sand as a medium because he feels he can achieve his desired texture, shadow and edges. Indeed, his final products are amazing feats considering their medium. Each of his sculptures takes approximately three days to create and each requires an immense amount of patience. Deveau starts with a sold sand block and slowly and carefully carves from that.
Deveau will often include themes relating to philosophy, mythology or psychology, incorporating his interests along with his talent. For instance, his most recent sculpture made on a beach in Texas, Bleeding, features a horizontal face, seemingly melting back into the ground. The agony and expression of the face are remarkable taking into account that they were carved out of sand. Though his was one of many sand sculptures created for Sandcastle Days 2013, the sophisticated emotion of Deveau’s Bleeding allowed it to stand out as eye-catching and thought provoking.
Katharina Fritsch is a German-born artist who transforms quotidian objects or mundane figures into something new. Using manipulation of scale and color along with repetition, Fritsch’s sculptures are usually hand-molded, cast in plaster, reworked, and then cast again in polyester. Her time consuming process creates results that are uncanny and strange.
Interested in psychology and the expectations of visitors to a museum, Fritsch’s work both appeals to the popular imagination, and a more conceptual thought process. One of Fritsch’s most popular works, Rattenkönig/Rat King (1993), a circle of black polyester rats that stand 12 feet tall, was included in the 1999 Venice Biennale. Both funny and frightening at the same time, works such as Rattenkönig/Rat King border on reality and illusion. Much of Fritsch’s work has an unsettling, often religious, association that is deeply psychological. Fritch’s sculptures tug at our deepest fears or most vivid dreams.
Usually pulling imagery from her world, subjects are often otherworldly in appearance, seemingly fantastical, like something out of a dream or a distorted memory. Her more recent installation, Hahn / Cock installed in Trafalgar Square in London is located across from Nelson’s Column. The Column is a monument built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Fritsch’s giant blue rooster is meant to comment on the masculinity and public pomp of the square. Again, funny with its double entendres and absurd appearance, Fritsch’s sculpture is also deeply unnerving. Installed this past July for 18 months there is plenty of opportunity to check out Fritsch’s installation.
Shintaro Ohata’s painting slash sculptures are beautifully finished glimpses into another world. The artist, born in Hiroshima, Japan, creates paintings that are accompanied by three-dimensional sculpture. Both the painting and the sculpture are so perfectly rendered that they seamlessly intermingle with one another. Ohanta’s painting abilities incorporate light, mood and subject impeccably. The effect is a snapshot out of a narrative where each figure is the heroine of her own story. A girl perched on a ledge blowing bubbles, the girl dancing through a nighttime urban scene, or my favorite, the girl walking amongst puddles that reflect the sky, looking up, which happens to be out at the viewer; each of these scenes has a unique story that feels very sweet, compelling and endearing.
There is a theme of solitude to Ohanta’s work. His subjects, usually young girls, are generally depicted alone, or in such a way that they seem alone, often in urban environments where there should be other people around. The paintings, however, are not lonely. Rather the subjects feel like they are lost in their own world, seeing, thinking and feeling things that we as viewers can only conjecture about.
Jason Rhoades, who lived and worked in Los Angeles up until his death in 2006, created amazing, over-the-top, often overwhelming, generally disorienting installations. Using neon, plastic buckets, power tools, snaking wires, figurines, sound and other odds and ends Rhoades created work that is engaging, witty and visually spectacular.
Known as “scatter art,” Rhoades’ environments combine a multiplicity of ideas. In works like The Creation Myth, originally installed in 1998, and now re-created for his retrospective at the ICA in Philadelphia, Rhoades created sculptural forms representing how humanity processes information, forms memories and produces things like art. The work often contains biographical, sexual and sometimes outright vulgar elements that require a viewer’s patience and open-mindedness. Seemingly arbitrary, each artifact has its purpose within Rhoades’ installations.
Overloading a viewer with information and visual content replete with metaphors and symbols, Rhoades purposefully creates his installations to avoid finite conclusions. In many ways Rhoades’ works mirror human thought—they layer information and content in seemingly incoherent ways forming multiple, usually incomplete notions and assumptions.
Rhoades’ retrospective will be on view at the Philadelphia ICA through December 29.
Joe Davidson creates beautiful sculptures from plaster sunflowers. Devoid of color, the hanging bouquets look as though they could be bones, bleached coral, or some other organic form drained of life. The Los Angeles-based artist is interested in repetition. A tradition based in Minimalism—repeating the same form over and over again—Davidson’s flowers are less about Minimalism and more about material. Davidson is interested in allowing an idea to be driven by the inherent quality and symbolism of the material used. Through the similar plaster casts (all are cast by hand), Davidson is creating shadows of the original. The mass production generates an effect whereby individual elements become part of a uniform, monochromatic whole.
Davidson strives to allow viewers to consider that which surrounds us; he wants to show beauty in the mundane and the individual within the mass. Subtle yet stunning, Davidson’s floral sculptures are like three-dimensional still lives, conceptually engaging and visually appealing.
Alejandro Guzman focuses his artistic practice on the idea of creative misunderstandings through art. Guzman uses performance, sculpture, painting, drawing, photography and video to explore his interest in human nature, behavior, migration, consumption and materialism. A Puerto Rican artist living and working in New York there are cultural and historical references to indigenous folklore traditions, colonialism and storytelling combined with European and American modernism throughout Guzman’s work.
Also interested in shared human experiences, Guzman designs performances and art objects that offer experience and provoke thought. For his exhibition, Intellectual Derelict, Guzman created a sculptural performance object, a dual character, one half covered in colorful flowers and drawings and the other in mirrors and black-and-white drawings. The figure was involved in three performances that were meant to enhance a viewer’s experience with the natural world. For another performance for AD Projects, Guzman wore a modified Vejigante mask. El Vejigante is a historical figure generally part of Puerto Rican festivals. He was born out of Spanish Christianity, West African Yoruba rites and Taino aesthetics. The figure both embraces and resists his multifaceted roots and represents the ability to live both inside and outside society.
Always incorporating industrial and natural materials as well as his own drawings and sculptures, Guzman’s creations and performances are thoughtful, insightful and visually engaging.
Luis Camnitzer is a German-born Uruguayan artist who currently lives in New York. A conceptual artist, working mainly in printmaking, sculpture and installation, Camnitzer’s work explores subjects such as social injustice, repression and institutional critique. His work is often witty, if not biting, and generally has political undertones punctuated by the use of language.
With beginnings in the Conceptual tradition of the 1960s and 70s, much of Camnitzer’s earlier works are text-based. Though he has lived in New York for many years, Camnitzer’s work also deals largely with ideas tied to his native homeland. His Uruguayan Torture Series from the early 80s demonstrate his interest in social and political issues regarding an individual in society. Camnitzer juxtaposes images with text containing connotations of violence. Subtle, Camnitzer leaves the viewer to decide his or her role as a spectator to the “disappeared” in Latin America. Leftovers, 1970, consists of several boxes stacked against a gallery wall. Each individually bandaged and stained with red paint, the word “leftovers” is stenciled on the sides. The piece evokes the idea of dismembered body parts and the work as a whole represents the political turbulence and violence that was happening in Uruguay and other Latin American countries during that time.
Some have written about Camnitzer’s work as a kind of poetry whereby Camnitzer has explored the way words function visually rather than verbally. Though Camnitzer denies this interpretation, there is an undoubted rhythm to his work that feels like prose with or without the inclusion of text. His 2001-02 installation of real books cemented into place feels completely lyrical in nature. The books are fortified in place, protected for all time. This piece embodies the part pessimistic, part romantic aspect that runs through much of Camnitzer’s work.