If you’re in the Los Angeles area you still have time to check out Barry McGee’s show up at Prism until June 30th. As usual with all of McGee’s shows his latest offering features dynamic installations that cover every corner of Prism’s massive gallery space. With this new body of work you’ll notice a greater transition towards the abstract and patterning with only moments of his signature graffiti references and typography. Could this be signs of an evolution out of the street iconography that McGee built his career on? I doubt it but the new evolution is quite nice nonetheless.
The legendary photographer Joel-Peter Witkin, previously featured here and now on view at LA’s Jack Ruthberg Gallery, weaves strange erotic narratives through his staged images, some of which take weeks to complete. His body of work reads like a love poem to the grotesque, transforming what society deems taboo into miraculously beautiful scenes.
Witkin’s images avoid judging the body, opting instead to reveal mankind’s universal but most private erotic yearnings and fears. In his reinterpretation of Canova’s famously sensual yet demurely reclining Venus, for example, naked male genitalia slip from cover as if by accident, the organ poignantly vulnerable, delicate, and human, seemingly caught between erection and flaccidity.
Sexual hunger again becomes the subject of another image that seems to deconstruct Romantic paintings like Theodore Gericault’s The Raft of The Medusa, famed for its haunting depiction of dead, drowning flesh. Here, a suspenseful, tragic rescue effort is transformed into a sort of desperate orgie on the verge of climax; a pair of heaving breasts is grabbed like melons.
The erotic, though filled with the dangers of physical and spiritual nakedness, is often elevated to the divine. A shirtless woman, her breasts bared, inserts her finger into a book much like the Virgin Mary in Renaissance paintings of the Annunciation. In these photographs, nuns pose alongside nudes, and horns (symbolic of lust) are merged with crowns of thorns (symbolic of Christ)
The gorgeous set of images challenge societal ideas of social acceptability, implying that the most exquisite beauty is often found in our most frightfully private moments of lust and longing. Within all of us, lies erotic impulses that can manifest in magical and dangerous ways. Be sure to check out Witkin’s work at Jack Ruthberg Gallery, where he will exhibit alongside his long-estranged brother, the legendary painter Jerome Witkin. (via Lenscratch and Etherton Gallery)
Swiss artist Fabian Bürgy is a master of deception and trickery. His practice combines installation, sculpture and digital imagery. By subtly and playfully manipulating mundane objects and the space they are in, he creates beautifully surreal situations. Bürgy is inspired by the most mundane of things – from chairs and suicide belts to tire marks, holes, ladders, nails and even dog tails, and he changes the way in which they are used. He has the power to fool our eyes and make us look twice at what we are seeing.
In Bürgy’s hands, an empty gallery space will now have a black hole disappearing through the floor. He will place some black dust in the corner of a room in such a clever way it will look like the wall is bending strangely or lifting up from the corner. Or he will boldly put a ‘crack’ in the floor like an earthquake had ruined the expensive gallery floor the day before and no one noticed. His work is understated, minimalistic, poetic and striking. He transforms, misplaces, and destroys the things we see around us everyday.
A personal favorite work of his has to be ‘A lonely and misplaced black cloud floating in space‘. It’s a beautiful combination of elegance, melancholy and stillness. There is a tension in his work, or a feeling of being unsettled, but the feeling is not so uncomfortable it can’t be enjoyed. Bürgy is able to straddle many contradictions – stillness and movement; familiarity and strangeness; function and non function; real and virtual. He is a clever sculptor who fully understands the words ‘concept’ and ‘art’.
More than a year ago, photographer Ruben Brulat set out on a journey from Europe to Asia by land only, through Iraq, Iran, onto Afghanistan, Tibet until Indonesia, Japan and Mongolia. The map below outlines the route that Brulat carved out for himself, marked with places where he briefly parallelled the paths of other travelers. His new series, “Paths,” is a collection of portraits the artist took of the strangers he met along the way. Brulat makes a concerted effort to capture each subject completely exposed in the natural setting where they crossed paths, prompting them to surrender themselves completely to the landscape.
According to the artist, he envisions the series as “a narrative constructed only by the randomness of the encounter, places and body—meeting with utopia and hope in these only suspended moments. [These are] bodies of people that became friends, performing, not without difficulties, leaving wounds, marks, and souvenirs from a time before heading towards different paths, after sharing one for a while.”
For her series “Animal Alchemy,” the sculptor Jessica Joslin uses delicate found animal bones and antique metal works to build an array of animal acrobats, who play at balancing on balls and interacting with one another. As suggested by the work’s alliterated title, her pieces present a touching marriage of the biological and chemical. The incorporation of once-living materials succeeds seamlessly for Joslin’s choice to use nostalgic and decorative out-of-date metals; against the rusted filigree of fragmented keepsakes, the time-bleached animal bones appear right at home.
Joslin’s creatures navigate a fine line between fragility and aggression; in a piece titled Troy, the reimagines the deceptively merciful figure of the Trojan Horse, fortifying a spindly neck with bullet casings. Frail skulls wear protective armor as if preparing for some ancient battle. Against the sheen of durable metals, animal bones appear unexpectedly delicate despite their sharp teeth and clawing talons.
With breathtaking precision, the artist allows her bony creatures a single mark of vitality, filling their cavernous sockets with marbly eyes. The careful emotionality of the pieces ultimately makes them more gentle than frightful; the sculptor subtly realizes their personalities and relations with one another through the downcast slant or expectant focus of a pupil. A particularly poignant two-headed tortoise is only given two inner eyes, causing each head to fixate the other without access to a peripheral world. Similarly, a horselike beast gazes upwards balefully, pulling the heavy carriage behind him.
Each piece, beautifully fashioned with discarded bones and obsolete metalworks, performs for the viewer, imploring us not to forget their purpose. Take a look. “Animal Alchemy” is now on display in Scottsdale, AZ at Lisa Sette Gallery. (via Hi-Fructose)
Move Mountain is the latest stop-motion animation by Kirsten Lepore, a Los Angeles based director and animator. We’ve featured films by her before, and Lepore’s newest work does not disappoint. She describes the short film as “A girl journeys through a vibrant, pulsing, macrocosmic landscape, but a precipitous incident compels her to venture up a mountain in an attempt to save herself.” The story itself is a surreal tale, and at one point oscillates between dreams and reality. It also shows us that at any given time, we are at the mercy of our environment.
The film is Lepore’s Master’s thesis from California Institute of the Arts and took her two and half years to produce. The use of handcrafted characters and fully modeled sets is really impressive. With the current trend being slick-looking techniques, it’s nice to see evidence of the hand in this film. (Watch the behind the scenes video after the jump.)
In addition to Lepore’s own character designs, she’s enlisted the help of animator friends, including the likes of Julia Pott, Lizzy Klein, Ethan Clarke, and more. They make one of my favorite scenes in the film, which is an unexpected but welcome surprise.
Asuka Ohsawa masterfully uses gouache on paper to create a world rife with dichotomous flair. Long Japanese scroll paintings depict cute anthropomorphic animals frolicking the town in seeming innocence and naivete but upon closer inspection there is a child ready to detonate a bomb and a crowd ready to capture and devour. There is underlying tension in all her works, reflecting on ideals and grievences of family and home, social and cultural norms, sexual moires, and moral righteousness. Each character and its surrounding environment is tightly rendered and outlined in sharp and precise lines, executed in flattened perspectives and limited color palates.
Julie Watai is a photographer and contemporary artist whose acid-bright, digitized works draw heavily on the worlds of Japanese manga, anime, and otaku culture. Distorted-yet-realistic, Watai combines images from pop cultural fantasies — from gun-slinging anime girls, to cyborgs, to “kawaii” dolls — with 3D (real-world) imagery, creating a glitch-type portraiture that excites and overloads the imagination. In a fascinating interview with The Creator’s Project, Watai explains how she seeks to unsettle reality using her love for manga and hyper-futurism:
“One thing that all my artwork has in common is that I never try to portray too much reality. I was really influenced by the two-dimensional world of manga as an adolescent, so I always try to get rid of things like pores or the texture of skin. I try to make the models smooth-skinned like dolls. I try to create images that allow people to experience the best parts of photography and 2D or planar art at the same time.” (Source)
Channeling surreal imagery from Tokyo’s digital-culture underground, Watai’s images are also informed by interesting perspectives on the female body, youth, and the “kawaii craze.” In regards to Watai’s choice of female models, she explained to The Creator’s Project that her photography acts as a way to preserve beauty: “you capture that beauty forever, even when it no longer exists” (Source). Many of Watai’s photos feature herself. In these images, she is achieving ownership over an ephemeral moment, converting the fleetingness of beauty and youth — including her own — into digitized immortality.
Watai’s works are also imbued with a playfully critical twist. Highlighting the obsession with youth in kawaii and otaku culture, Watai’s images consciously spill over into the aesthetic realms of excess and the grotesque: colors clash violently against each other, teddy bears overrun bodies, and girls mesh provocatively with machines against hyperbolic, interstellar backdrops. In a postmodern blend of celebration and critique, Watai depicts fantasy cultures with the same passion and power that drives them.
In addition to photography, Watai also expresses her love for computers and gadgets through her work as an iPhone Apps developer, musician, and radio personality. Last month she was invited to attend the Maker Faire Shenzhen in China. Be sure to check out her website and Facebook page to follow her work. (Via The Creators Project)