A few weeks ago, we took a look at early stick and poke tattoos that adorned the bodies of prisoners. A new publication from Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell (aka design studio and publishing imprint FUEL) sheds more light (and images) on this subject, specifically focusing on Russian prisoners. The black and white images feature police files of men who are stripped down and their full chest pieces, sleeves, backs, and legs exposed. Their tattoos are more involved that what we’ve seen previously, and are full of curious symbols that seems to include a lot of religious iconography.
For this particular series of images, FUEL looked through the personal archives of Arkady Bronnikov, one of the leading experts in Russian tattoo iconography. He spent several decades working for the USSR Ministry of Internal affairs and travelled throughout the country interviewing and photographing prisoners and later reporting back on the coded meanings. This gave authorities insight into this secret and fascinating language.
FUEL’s project is currently raising funds on Kickstarter to make this book a reality. At the time of writing, it’s more than half funded with two weeks left. (Via It’s Nice That)
Simultaneously showcasing the art of construction as well as deconstruction, photographer Brandon Edgar Allen captures the inner workings of some of our favorite video game controllers in his series entitled Deconstructed. The Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, and Playstation consoles are all represented with their circuit boards, buttons, and plastic containers neatly organized on a rustic wood background. Allen’s photographs depict controllers that were played until they wouldn’t play any more. Buttons are worn down and mutilated. Plastic is dirty and torn. Sometimes, the parts were fried.
Despite its niche appeal, these objects are so ingrained into our culture that even you can probably recognize them even if you don’t play video games. The shape of the controller has become an symbol for its specific console and our not-so-new national pastime, especially as the next generation Playstations and XBoxes come with increasingly more “non game” features.
Fans and non fans can both appreciate this series. Those who love video games will enjoy the nostalgia that comes from seeing these well-loved controllers. Those who aren’t video game fanatics can enjoy Allen’s work as a study of objects, and a series full of small idiosyncrasies. (Via Junk Culture)
The late and great author Kurt Vonnegut was a visual artist, too. If you’re a fan of his writing, then you probably already knew that drawings by him appear in 1973’s Breakfast of Champions and that he illustrated the cover for Man Without a Country in 2005. But in the mid-1990’s, Vonnegut shipped his daughter Nanette a plethora of drawings. She kept them in her studio’s flatfiles (she’s a visual artist, too) until now, when the artwork was made into a book and is part of a touring exhibition titled Kurt Vonnegut Drawings. The book is published by Monacelli Press and features 145 selections of his work.
Playful line drawings are composed using pen and marker. The abstract and surreal works, in which things transform and morph to become something other than themselves, include fragments of the written word. One drawing includes a steep set of stair and muses, “There is a ceiling on human thoughts.” Other wordless works often include a minimalist portrait or figure. They are free-flowing images that feel like a stream of consciousness.
The published book includes essays written by his daughter and scholar (and Vonnegut friend) Peter Reed. He writes, “great value of this collection is that Vonnegut’s artwork gives us another perspective on his restless imagination and his creative genius. … There are constraints in writing that even the iconoclastic Vonnegut felt, but in his art he seems wholly uninhibited.” (Via Hyperallergic)
Artist Ron Issacs crafts delicate-looking garments using a not-so-delicate looking material – wood. Starting with Finnish birch plywood, he builds elaborate relief constructions and ends by painting them in a trompe l’oeil fashion. Issacs excels at capturing the subtle details that make these sculptures believable. The shirts, dresses, and flowers look as though they are gently swaying in the wind. He writes about the subjects of his work, writing:
My three primary recurring subjects are vintage clothing (for the way it continues the life of the past into the present, for its rich structures and colors and shapes, and for its anthropomorphic presence as a stand-in for the figure); plant materials in the form of sticks, leaves, and flowers (for too many reasons to list); and found objects. They combine in appropriate or surprising juxtapositions, sometimes purely as a visual “poem” of sorts and (if I’m lucky) sometimes as an image with real psychological resonance. Objects occasionally reappear in other contexts and take on new meanings, like a repertory company of actors playing different roles in different plays.
Issacs goes on to say that he sees his art as a hybrid of painting and sculpture; the three-dimensional construction employs one half of the work while the colorful adornments are the other. In addition, he invites the viewer to come up with their own interpretations of his creations. You can attach a narrative to it and your own “reading,” but to him, these are largely about the act of making and the fascination with making things resemble something that they’re not.
There’s a dog in every one of these photographs. Do you see it? Based on a famous game, Andrew Knapp and his border collie Momo find a variety of places to play hide and seek. Urban areas, grassy parks, graffitied walls and rocky terrain are just some of where you can spot Momo (or at least try). Knapp and his furry friend play this ongoing game called Find Momo with the fans of their blog around the world.
This light-hearted and amusing series is reminiscent of the Where’s Waldo books that many of us enjoyed as kids. Momo is good at hiding, and it’s genuinely difficult to spot him in some of these photographs. Further adding to the feeling of nostalgia, Knapp applies a vintage filter to his images, and they look like they are memories of another time.
If you didn’t know the premise behind them, you can still enjoy these images for the quirky American landscapes that they are. (Via DeMilked)
David Redon makes vintage popular culture look new by adding celebrities. The art director at Parisian agency Quai Des Orfèvres combines famous people like Kanye, Beyonce, and Pharrell with Mid-Century advertisements in a series he calls Ads Libitum. We see them endorsing soap, make up, toothpaste, and drive-in restaurants, all having been Photoshopped to fit in with the look and feel of the past.
Redon explains to Adweek why he crafts these remixes, stating, “I like the shift between vintage and modern pop culture, because these days the border between art and commercial is very small, and artists work their images like brands do.” It’s true. Kanye definitely cultivates a specific persona that is polarizing and it’s part of how he sells himself. Pharrell, on the hand, markets himself as a happy-go-lucky likable guy, which makes him more family-friendly with wider appeal.
Ads Libitum is primarily American marketing and culture through the eyes of a non-American. Redon makes some interesting choices on celebrity and advertising pairings. Nirvana, for instance, seems a little outdated, as does Michael Jackson, but to someone who’s an outsider, these people are an icon of music in the United States. (Via Adweek)
Would you eat a blue chicken? What about an unidentifiable purple sauce? In Lawrie Brown’sColored Food Series, dishes are outlandishly unnatural colors that appear unappetizing to some and edible to others. This is the point of Brown’s work, and they explain in an artist statement:
These photographs comment on the social, visual and psychological aspects of food. I am involved in a photographic investigation of what food people eat, what those foods materially consist of, what they look like, and what statements foods make about our society. Of concern to me is what food actually looks like photographically and how it psychologically affects the viewer when isolated within its natural context.
My photographs of typical table settings of food outwardly evoke in the viewer either delight and acceptance or repulsion and rejection. The response that occurs depends on:
The awareness of the viewer to the actual or imagined taste of the subject or to the actual or imagined content of the food.
The individual psychological response to the colors presented.
Although you may look at this and be disgusted, Brown’s foods don’t seem worse than the artificially colored and flavored fruit gummies (for example) on the shelves now. So, if you’re not grossed out by these images, perhaps it’s from years of Gusher’s Fruit Snacks that’s desensitized you. (Via Flavorwire)
In a powerful series by artist and curator Rachel Graves, she interprets the catcalls and street harassment that’s thrown at her and her friends when in public places. Menagerie is a collection of self portraits that liken this lewd and unwanted treatment to the way that animals are prey.
“The project came about as a way for me to take control of what was happening and find a way to answer back and gain ownership over myself again,” Graves explained to The Huffington Post. “For me it was important to do more than simply dress up and paint my face to represent some of the names and insults being thrown at me. I didn’t want to just turn myself into the object that the harassers saw me as. I wanted to find a way to get my sense of self back, to be able to throw the words away and take back control.”
“Bird,” “fox,” and “bitch,” are all references to animals (and ones that women are called) that dehumanize people, and are all costumes that Graves wears. She paints ghoulish-looking makeup and fashions snouts that reflect the identity of what she is to her taunters. Afterwards, she washes herself of these oppressive masks.
“Being a woman in a public space can be a scary thing. Some men perceive women’s bodies as being public property, and act in ways that are intimidating and sexually aggressive. When I experience street harassment, my autonomy and control over my own body is taken away from me,” Graves says, again to The Huffington Post. “A similar thing can be seen in the industrialization of farming practices. Animals and women are objectified in similar ways: seen merely as pieces of meat for public consumption.”
By washing away the paint and taking off the noses, Graves regains her own identity. (via The Huffington Post)