Step into the world of photographer Phebe Schmidt, where everything is carefully constructed into a sickening sweet perfection. Her candy-colored world is filled with Barbie-like subjects, some even encased in plastic. Each hyperreal photograph seems almost too good to be true, like we have stepped inside a house of a Stepford wife. This draws the viewer in closer as we inspect the dark undertones of each photo that are surrounded by cheery colors. The objects in Schmidt’s photography, including her figures who look more like inanimate objects than people, are flawless and glossy, making everything seem like an advertisement. This viewpoint and concept is no doubt a comment on commodities and how contemporary culture is overcome with it. It has been said that “plasticity” is a term that defines Schmidt’s style.
Her work has a stylized plasticity and bright surface that acts as a mask that plays with ideas of self, theatrical role-playing, and what lies beneath. Plasticity is a key term Schmidt uses to describe her work and marks a contemporary obsession with homogenized, generic beauty ideals that conform to gender, social, and cultural norms.
It is true that generic beauty ideas are very apparent in Schmidt’s body of work. Each person shown in her photography seems nameless and ambiguous due to his or her impossible perfection. The figures do not look toward the camera, but out into space with a numbingly blank stare. This absence of humanity creates a futuristic atmosphere where commodity and beauty have altered our state of being. Schmidt’s seductive and incredibly intriguing photography evokes both a sci-fi future, and a mod, mid-century feel. Each photograph filled with sweetly colored backgrounds and flawless subjects keeps us curious in what lies beneath the generic beauty.
Boston-based photographer Asia Kepka did not have a master vision for where her horse and squirrel photos would go, but she didn’t need one: once she began shooting, they quickly took on a life of their own. This project, now titled “Horace and Agnes: A Love Story by Asia Kepka,” has become a beautiful collaborative project between Kepka and writer Lynn Dowling, both of which play the characters. Since the projects inception the cast has grown as they have added friends and other characters into their story.
“Once we gave them identity, their story began to unfold. They met through random circumstance and their love for each other is literally blind. They exemplify a fairy tale of what would be like to fall in love with the right person…just because.
Horace and Agnes, along with their friends, are inspired by people and stories from our past and present. Sometimes by family members and sometimes by strangers we have encountered. The photographs are memories brought to life once again- recreated with as much detail possible to make the viewer become immersed in this magical and unique world.”
Born in Switzerland, Mathias Schmied manipulates comic books and magazine images to create wall installations, collages and drawings. His works are pop images transformed. Cut-out graffiti and superheroes take on all new representation and meaning through Schmied’s cautious hand and razor blade. The easily recognizable content of Schmied’s found images becomes confused through his dissection. Pages where all real content has been removed feel empty and even somewhat sad. Depicting only what’s left behind from superhero stories feels like the newspaper without the news. We can only begin to guess at what’s going on.
Other works, such as the “landscapes,” are combinations of explosive imagery. A motif repeated becomes a humorous apocalypse of comic explosions. And Schmied’s “movie soundtracks” depict the “pows” and “kabooms” seen in comics, jumping off the wall and moving into a viewer’s space. Perhaps my favorite are Schmied’s Rorschach comics, which consist of a cut out the figure that Schmied situated in such as way so that he is mirroring his negative space.
Fun, but also thoughtful and engaging, Schmied’s work is both smart and nostalgic.
Hailing grom London, artist Neil Morley creates his multi-layered works using college techniques. Morley is influenced by artists like Sigmar Polke, and uses reproductions of nineteenth century reportage etchings from the London Illustrated News and satirical magazines such as Punch. His work is a reflection on his research on travel, tourism, colonialism, and post-colonialism. The paintings create parallels between nineteenth century colonialism and twenty-first century tourism: “Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world and has arguably had the most influence on First World perceptions of utopia such as white, sandy beaches, clear blue sea, simplicity and adventure couched in luxury. Tourism has the propensity to mask realities such as poverty, poor infrastructure, and dictatorship. The all–inclusive resort and the heavily structured guided tour itineraries cherry pick and conceal these realities.” Packing a very heavy/important message makes his work that much more interesting.
Eastside Angelinos are probably familiar with the dead-end leading to an overpass in Chinatown on Yale Street (I know I’ve made the repeated mistake? miraculous discovery? of turning onto Yale and thinking it was a through street many a times)- but less have probably seen it used for anything not related to shady drug deals (can anyone confirm this assumption?).
Get Rid of White Walls Collective is focused on bringing fine art out of galleries and into non-traditional spaces: public, domestic, industrial, nautical, etc. These events are meant to reveal the unique identity of these sites to the surrounding public, offering a place of public interaction via the provocation of the urban landscape.
Chinese artist Shu Yong created an atypical waterfall using upwards of 10,000 recycled toilets, sinks and urinals. The project took two months for Shu Young and his team to complete and covers a wall 100 meters long and 5 meters high. Originally designed for the Foshan Pottery and Porcelain Festival, a porcelain product tradeshow, the piece is now installed as a permanent piece of public art. Each toilet was connected to a tap so that they could be flushed—the point being to give a viewer an idea of just how much water is used in a city as large as Foshan.
Shu Yong typically works in many mediums, ranging from painting, photography, sculpture and performance, always interested in “bubbles.” For Shu, bubbles are not just a symbol, they’re also a concept. Shu says, “I use various methods to deduce bubble, making it a totem in both conception and form.” Alongside the Toilet Waterfall Shu installed one of his “Bubble Women,” a sculpture of ballooning women’s breasts. A seemingly unusual pairing, Shu uses the Bubble Women as a reflection of the motivations and interests of modern day society. Juxtaposing the two works makes for a bizarre, yet strangely effective, commentary on contemporary culture. Shu believes in using such provocative work to address cultural mythology, politics and contemporary anxiety in China, or as he calls it, “his laboratory.” (via amusingplanet)
There is something intanglibly familiar about Korean artist Lee Jeong Lok‘s photoseries “Tree of Life”. Perhaps it is the beautiful, postcard-quality of the surroundings, or that Lee has truly tapped into a cross-cultural metaphor for the spiritual in using an illuminated tree as a subject. Lee has mentioned in previous interviews that he considers himself a deeply religious person, and attempts to give his photographs a palpable sense of spirituality. Says Lee,
“I tried to depict emotions and spiritual imagination in that the sceneries inspired rather than recreated the scenery itself. … Every myth talks about another world that we believe co-exists with the real world we look at and live in. The other world has a powerful presence that we cannot see.”
Lee, who grew up in the Korean countryside, often depicts an intimate bond with nature in his work. In his Tree of Life photoseries, the photographer admits to using installation, sets, scenes and digital manipulation to create his constructed scenes of illuminated trees in spiritually-emotive surroundings. Lee continues,
“But it is very important to me that my end product is photography. I believe there exists another, invisible world within the world we can see with our eyes. If I were to draw an image of this parallel universe, it would become a mere fantastical illustration. However, by using photography the end result is very different; it retains the essence of our experience of reality, while simultaneously conveying a sense of the hidden realm that exists therein.”
Living in cities, not only do we forget that we’re a part of the natural world, but it’s easy to forget how truly awesome the natural world can be. Occasionally, though, we’ll get lost or go camping and see a world of seemingly inanimate structures that are not only alive but full of color and crawling in and over one another and feel like we have found another world. Allison Gildersleeve has definitely felt this way, as her paintings are all about the wild wild wilderness– its colors, life, fractal chaos–that we too easily overlook. From a distance, Allison’s work looks almost expressionist, but as you look more, you notice meticulously painted shapes that look more and more like trees and branches and realize what she really seems like she’s trying to express is the impression the awe of the natural world has on her. One kick back to living in the cities is that when you go back out to the wilderness, it really does seem wild. If you haven’t seen it for a while, get some camping and swimming in while you still can and take a few minutes to look at the world that’s living and breathing around you.