Louis Jacinto‘s series “Floating Away” is at once alien and familiar, like Norman Rockwell from space. His photographs are of the most mundane objects we see every day in our lives: signs, usually connected to buildings and rooftops, drifting away. One photograph features a water tower, suspended in mid-air like a Midwestern siren call. Unmoored from their surroundings, the objects seem to contain some kind of portent, like a surreal rapture of modern design.
Jacinto’s photographs of big company logos are particularly evocative; devoid of branding, advertisements and the adoring gaze of consumers, they seem almost lonely. There’s a nostalgia to Jacinto’s photographs. They’re haunted by ghosts of icons from the past.
According to a statement by the artist,
“I expected so much growing up in the 1960s. My home always included discussions of the day’s events and politics. I saw how people struggled, fought and died for what was right. I thought by the time I was grown, the world was going to be beautiful and wonderful. I see we are still getting it backwards. I do everything I can so that my own ideals don’t float away.”
Sculptor Claire Curneen works with everything from porcelain to terracotta, creating figurines that are cathartic and vaguely surreal. Her humanoid sculptures are faceless yet somehow expressive, posed in beseechingly though it would be up to interpretation just what they are looking for.
According to her artist’s statement, Curneen aims to “explore grand themes about the body and the human condition.” This sometimes manifests itself viscerally in her works where human bodies are pierced with thorns or otherwise immobilized. Other pieces are subtler, the figures lost in a shroud of apparent existential angst.
Curneen’s artist statement also says:
“Referencing Roman Catholic imagery and ideology and early Italian Renaissance paintings such as Piero Della Francesca’s ‘Baptism of Christ’, these figures bear bold narratives of saints, martyrs and rites of passage punctuated by often delicate yet dramatic totems to death, re-birth and the sublime.” (via Dark Silence in Suburbia)
Kevin Dowd creates photo collages that examine the familiar in surreal environments. An amusement park ride is suspended in mid-air; the lonely peak of a roller coaster ride frames a mysterious moon. His artwork resonates with emotional meaning, evoking feelings of uncertainty and isolation. By using the totems of our childhood — brightly colored balloons, swings, and theme park rides — Dowd also calls up a sense of unsettling nostalgia.
This is no coincidence. One of his collections is called Technostalgia: a pair of balloons tethered to a telephone pole, at odds with a wisp of cloud in the background that could either be coming or going. The artist’s intent is to examine “the nature of communication, the analogous methods of wired transmission, sound and even thought.”
Dowd is a thoughtful artist who has grand metaphorical meanings behind his work. Field Day: Ascent, the collage of children on swings rising into the sky, is meant to “capture sensations of awe and beauty, while recognizing the tentative nature of such experiences.” The photos of the roller coaster, named Babel I and Babel II, “explore the hubris of man.”
Whether or not the viewers grasp those exact interpretations, though, Dowd’s work still stirs up feelings of traveling to times and places long gone. (h/t I Need a Guide)
We’ve covered Kris Kuksi’s Churchtanks series in the past, which invoked religion alongside symbols of modern warfare to create a curious blend of spirituality and the profane. “Ascension of Eos” is a more recent work, taking the exploration of larger than life mythos intersecting with the mortal coil.
Eos, the goddess of dawn in Greek mythology, or perhaps a statue of Eos rises up from a sea of humans. She’s being worshipped or built — or perhaps the two are one in the same. The humans around her are in a frenzy — some are tangled together in frantic sex, others are being crushed by wheels and impaled by arrows. Her congregation’s agony can just as easily be interpreted as divine ecstasy, and painted with a dark patine, the entire tableau seems truly gothic.
“I get inspired by the industrial world, all the rigidity of machinery, the network of pipes, wires, refineries, etc.,” says Kuksi. “Then I join that with an opposite of flowing graceful, harmonious, and pleasing design of the baroque and rococo.”
Beautiful, dark, and mysterious, Kuksi’s work contains tons of detail. It’s created through mixed media assemblage, which adds texture and physicality to the piece. At more than four and a half feet tall and three and a half feet wide, it looks almost like an altar or a memorial. (h/t Dark Silence in Suburbia)
Sonya Fu’s digital paintings seek to open the third eye and unlock the limbo between wakefulness and sleep. Rendered in soft vibrant colors, her characters are lit up, though from within or without we are uncertain. Shapes and bubbles of light play on their faces, like projections from an unknown dimension. Their half-closed dreaming eyes add to the eerie yet somehow peaceful quality of the paintings, as though we’re witnessing some mystical wandering of the mind.
“Art is a powerful visual language and creating art is a calming and therapeutic process,” Fu says. “I would like to share with people my dreamscape, its beauty and its oddity.” Her paintings are the product of sleep paralysis, a state where the mind is only half-awake and the body is still convinced it’s slumbering. In more superstitious times, sleep paralysis has been attributed to everything from death itself to hags who would come and sit on the sleeper’s chest. As though channeling that supernatural power, the girls in Fu’s paintings gaze off into the distance, thoroughly raptured away and unaware or perhaps undisturbed by their surreal surroundings. They are composed, high priestesses of some fantasy world that only blossoms in the twilight hours.
Fu explains: “It might be an eerie creature, a whimsical scenery or a disturbed beauty who speaks words of wisdom – they are all embodiments of my subconscious mind.” (via Hi-Fructose)
Titus Kaphar creates new perspectives on art with his deconstructed installations. After painting in the style of classical and Renaissance greats, he begins to change the works, literally peeling them back in some cases. He uses cutouts and silhouettes to recontextualize the paintings in a way seems to lift the curtain and show us another layer of reality. “Open areas become active absences, walls enter into the portraits, stretcher bars are exposed, and structures that are typically invisible underneath, behind, or inside the canvas are laid bare, revealing the interiors of the work,” Kaphar says of his work.
Cipher also experiments with texture, adding thick layers of paint and creating a new dimension of emotion and expressiveness as a result. Some of his pieces are contemplative, but others are playful, like a portrait of a man with the subject peeled from his surroundings and left crumpled before the foot of the frame. Kaphar explains:
“I cut, crumple, shroud, shred, stitch, tar, twist, bind, erase, break, tear, and turn the paintings and sculptures I create, reconfiguring them into works that nod to hidden narratives and begin to reveal unspoken truths about the nature of history. … In so doing, my aim is to perform what I critique, to reveal something of what has been lost, and to investigate the power of a rewritten history.”
Photographer Cheuk Lun Lo‘s series of hair in media rinse is stylish and playful. The hair is teased into tangles and swirls, white shampoo tinting the curves like seafoam. Some of the spikier specimens begin looking like sea creatures if you stare at them too long; another is reminiscent of a hedgehog. One photo, an unassuming, almost shy curl of hair, looks like something you might find in a shower drain — a big cowlick, basically.
According to My Modern Met, Lo’s photo series first appeared in the Chinese magazine Numero Magazine. The photo series in a way defies conventional standards of beauty: the meticulous grooming, the impeccably ironed clothes, the put-together and perfectly powdered face. Instead, Lo’s photos show that the unusual can be captivating; pinned to a dark background, these half-washed yet fully conceived hair styles are mysterious and lovely in a way that perhaps wouldn’t be possible for a finished product with a shiny veneer. (via My Modern Met)
Paul Parker‘s video “Seagull Skytrails” shows a living map of bird flight, charting their paths like free-wheeling weather patterns or miniature time-lapsed jet planes. In some parts of “Seagull Skytrails,” the birds almost look like patterns on a zoetrope or frames of some life-sized GIF. The effect is playful, as though we’ve been allowed to look behind the scenes.
Parker also uses After Effect, a piece of video editing software, to blur the birds’ paths into pulsing dark ribbons, looking almost like ocean currents transposed onto the sky. These “skytrails” offer us a peek into the transit system of another world: the freeway of birds.