Artist Ron English is best known for his bright and playful pop culture aesthetic, and a blending of high and low art cultures, something he refers to as “popaganda.” A multitude of characters and references populate his works, and it’s this accessibility that lends his work its effectiveness. One particular painting – Picasso’s Guernica – represents a modern template for English that he has interpreted over 50 times, and English approaches each interpretation aware and reverent of the original’s cultural significance.
English writes, “[Guernica] is a visual shorthand for the overwhelming and gratuitous horror of modern war. But I argue that the cultural takeaway of Guernica is actually the opposite. It transforms incomprehensible tragedy into a cartoon narrative, something we can more easily absorb. This is part of the human process, to distance ourselves from the immediacy of undiluted, overwhelming emotions by overlaying a narrative that simplifies, and in effect, takes us down from three to two dimensions. And this is the underlying concept that I grapple with in all my many versions of Guernica.”
English’s approach to the Guernica template resonates throughout much of his work; the artist often interprets our visually-saturated cultures, recontextualixing familiar imagery in order to critique or present ideas that can be more easily absorbed. In order to capture particular lighting and angles, English constructs 3D models of some his concepts before painting them. While each interpretation is unique in its imagery, English admits he’s “…always riffing on the same basic message — that cultural bias is embedded in our narrative. [His] Guernicas call attention to the product placement of global corporate culture, using war as entertainment and entertainment as war.” (via huffington post)
San Diego-based artist Seyo Cizmic works largely within the realm of the surreal. From hammers that droop to knock nails into their own bodies to wooden pencils with thorns built into them, many of the objects Cizmic creates are meant to confound the viewer. Barely any of them are usable in the practical sense of the item, presenting a challenge to viewers about what exactly these objects could be meant for. Some are rife with humor, such as Cyclops’ Shades, a pair of tie-dyed flower child sunglasses with only one lens, or Fish Machine Bank, a gum ball machine filled with goldfish. They’re sculptures that are meant to be questioned, scrutinized, perhaps even laughed at. Cizmic’s objects are of a different world, one in which backwards is forwards, in which objects that don’t follow reason are a new, cockeyed normal.
Within the nonsensical nature of Cizmic’s objects, however, lie larger issues at play. There’s With God on Our Side, a gold-plated sword with a crucifix at the base, joining religious iconography with an image of violence. Then there’s the self-explanatory In God, Money, and Guns We Trust, in which a pair of disembodied gold arms in military regalia hold a dollar bill up as if in prayer. Despite having his tongue pressed firmly against his cheek, Cizmic often layers his sculptures and installations with these deeper meanings, making the scrutiny and perplexity they evoke all the more rewarding.
Polish fashion photographer, Sylwia Makris, creates photographs that juxtapose an academic portrait aesthetic with a steampunk sensibility. Sylwia’s work resembles dark and dreamlike worlds where bodily expressions, makeup, clothes and the environment itself come together to tell a unique story full of charm and mystery.
Makris’ recent body of work, a series of portraits that resemble the dark and the beautiful, serve as an artful glimpse on our current fashion aesthetic condition- in Makris’ terms, of course. It primarily features pale-white women and men encapsulated in a black background in steampunk formalwear; many are tattooed or pierced, if not wearing dark makeup. The models wear extravagant headpieces that pile up on top of their head like the headdress of wild mythical creatures. She photographs people that are strong or delicate, broken or dynamic. She photographs the faces of our time-and in doing so, she gives a face to our time in her own terms.
The dramatic lighting and over-the-top costumes are not what we deem real, however. Perhaps, what is real, in this case, is Makris’ faith in the strength of an expressive and strong appearance and personality; a belief that through her gothic, steampunk characters, she illustrates very clearly. The intensity and confidence that exudes from her subjects is not to be missed and certainly not to be disbelieved.
adidas collaborated with a renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic to create a short film for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Video takes inspiration from Abramovic’s 1978 performance Work Relation and explores the notion of teamwork and parallels between sport and performance.
Same as the original piece, the reenactment features a group of 11 people (a reference to the number of soccer/football players on the field) transporting stones from one side of the court to the other. They are all arranged into three contrasting models: a couple, two individuals and a human chain. By doing so, Abramovic explores the contrast of cooperation and efficiency.
Work Relation was a perfect piece for adidas to pay tribute to its partnership with the 2014 FIFA World Cup. According to Abramovic who appears in the video herself, she sees a broad affinity between sport and performance.
“One similarity that I wanted to highlight in this video is the importance of group collaboration. <…> I believe that it is important to learn from other disciplines in order to bring new life to whatever it is that you do.”
The black and white video was shot by SHOWstudio in the manner of early motion cinematic experiments. All participants are dressed in their personal clothes, however they all wear a white lab coat from Marina Abramovic Institute and adidas’ Samba sneakers. As the performance author explained, the apparel was meant to create a sense of collective experimentation and mute external distractions.
Good design is supposed to make life easier. Ideally, it’s beautiful, intuitive, and useful. This can be said for things like Apple products, for instance, but the same doesn’t apply to Katerina Kamprani’sThe Uncomfortable project. The architect has applied the exact opposite principles to objects such as forks, watering cans, and rain boots. Instead of helping improve our lives, they make it harder but being oddly contorted, ill-placed, and out of the wrong materials. This includes hairy dishes, a cement umbrella, and steps that lead to nowhere (paired with a door you can’t enter).
Kamprani (also known as KK) ponders if these designs are vindictive, or perhaps a helpful study of everyday objects. Her goal was to make them uncomfortable (hence the name) but technically usable and to maintain the essence of the original item. While they aren’t totally unusable, they certainly won’t improve your life. (Via La Monda)
German photographer Thomas Kellner‘s contact sheet photo montages deconstruct iconic architectural landmarks and cityscapes. Each of Kellner’s frames are shot sequentially, then printed in the film’s exact order – no cut/paste or digital manipulation – before strips are cut and then placed together. Each final contact sheet montage’s size depends on how much film Kellner uses for his subject – with one roll of film, the montages are only 20 x 24 cm. Kellner first began descontructing architecture using the contact sheet method in 1997, and since 2003, has been photographing and decontructing buildings around the world.
Of his work, Kellner says, “I think I am more of an artist than a photographer. At the moment I am working on architecture, but it is not classic architectural photography. There are definitions in art about ‘construction/deconstruction’ or ‘collage/decollage,’ but I don’t think any of it really fits what I am doing right now, maybe my work is closer to conceptual art or conceptual photography. Many have said it is ‘very Germany,’ and that might be closer.” (via art chipel)
New York based fashion photographer, Dominik Tarabanski, creates surreal editorial photographs that evolve around the notion of a ‘modern human’–minimal and sophisticated yet weird and edgy. Think of it like this: a mix between the early surreal photographs of May Ray and Lady Gaga’s outrageous closet and styling.
My interest and inspirations evolve around the modern human, photography is always the ultimate form of reflection. I hope that my visual sensibility will one day lead to a simple, pure and perfect organic form. I want to talk about the phenomenon of fashion in my own conceptual way, which leads to a smooth transition into the art domain. – Tarabanski
Sonia Rentsch is an art director and still life artist from Melbourne. From intricately arranged appetizers to a hanging lamp fashioned out of a head of lettuce, Rentsch’s work is both dynamic and elegant, often incorporating food as a subject. This trend is put to most effective use in her series Harm Less, an installation in which Rentsch fashioned weaponry out of completely organic objects. Each piece is visually arresting, the imagery of handguns and bullets hauntingly familiar and yet transformed into something beautiful when created out of green produce and plants. The series, in which handguns are made out of everything from bamboo shoots to roses, presents a powerful statement about gun violence and its impact as well as Rentsch’s impeccable eye for detail.
Rentsch has worked with photographer Scott Newett, assisted with design duo Tin and Ed, and worked as the production designer for Australian popstar Kimbra’s music video for “Good Intent”. Her work is consistently bright and colorful, but always proffers a lens through which viewers can fully immerse themselves in the elaborate scenery. One of her most recent projects, a public installation with artist Ben Davis, included a garden of colored pinwheels displayed in Melbourne’s La Trobe Place. Although the meticulous design behind Rentsch’s still life images is evident in each minute detail, Rentsch is assured in working with no set process. As she said in an interview, “An idea comes as quickly as it has to.”