Dark paintings by Braden Labonte.
Kitty Von-Sometime is an Iceland-based (England-born) filmmaker who creates beautifully strange and empowering performance art videos celebrating women of diverse backgrounds, ages, and body types. Titled The Weird Girls Project, Kitty’s art pieces are visual experiments aimed at releasing the participants from inhibitions and insecurities by exploring fun and unconventional forms of identity.
As a child born of the digital world, I have a compulsive hunger to record what I do. My inspiration comes from childhood dreams, from synchronicity, from public participation, in freeing those from their constraints, and a personal obsession with spandex.
In each episode, a group of women — many of whom have never met — are assembled and briefed on the secretly planned video shoot that Kitty has carefully planned. The results are inspiring: in “Secret Garden,” for example (shown below), women walk among the trees, unveiling both body and soul under the moonlight. In “Castle of the Apocalypse,” filmed in an abandoned fake Disneyland theme park in China, a shadowy crew dances amidst the ruins of greed and corruption. Taking a turn towards the humorously absurd, “Bunny Revolution” features a cast of rabbit-masked ladies who violently battle before throwing down their weapons and humping vigorously. In each of the videos, we see women improvising, playing, and morphing into expressive extensions of themselves, exploring their individual strengths and beauties while also working together as a supportive group. I had the opportunity to speak with Kitty about her project.
Dan Colen has been dubbed in the past one of Warhol’s Children, a famous or notorious – depending on which critic you’re asking – New York post-pop prince. His earlier work was made of gum and simulation bird droppings, and although his artwork received heavy criticism for imitating or ridiculing artists and the high-art community, he continued to be successful and his career flourished. It seems there’s always a place for the unaffected artist-rock-star character type.
Recently, Colen has taken a more subdued approach to his practice. In light of the death of his good friend and artist contemporary Dash Snow, who died of an overdose in 2009, Colen has tried to curb his own lifestyle choices. This slow down is reflected in his artwork, namely his current exhibition at Gagosian: Miracle Paintings. Perhaps in the context of another artist, paintings of star streams and neon explosions would be a bold subject, but in comparison to his whoopee cushion installation Blowin in the wind, the medium is much more conventional and less provoking.
The feeling in the paintings is of excitement and solemnity. They’re easier to digest but still pack a visual punch. There’s life, death, and tranquility. It’s probably a pivotal moment in Colen’s career. Will he be able to remain successful without the contrarian stunts he is known for? It should also be considered that these paintings are much more pleasant to consume: Is he riding the comfort of his position in the New York art community, or pushing new personal boundaries? Personally I enjoy this series, but could also see how some of his fans might be disappointed in the relatively understated nature of the works.
Miracle Paintings is on at Gagosian until October 18th.
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)
Canadian artist Kathryn Macnaughton creates beautiful illustrative designs using suggestive imagery and pornographic material. I particularly love her “Filthy Rautten” series and her “Unicorn Sandwich.”
Anne Lemanski‘s sculptures of various animals done in unique textile surrounding a copper armature are rich in symbolism. An eagle is composed of stitched-together dollar bill designs, while a pigeon is put together with pieces of a service worker’s uniform. A water bird is made of slick, oily latex. The sculptures are great, and the social, political, and environmental commentary are a bonus. Lemanski’s work, which “highlight[s] our admiration for animals as symbols, and our exploitation of them to suit our needs…” touches on a nice dichotomous conflict that adds some strong intellectual power to each piece. Coyotes, snakes, primates, and more after the jump. (via)
Scott Hazard ( featured here previously) is a North Carolina-based artist whose torn-paper landscapes engulf an entire gallery space. Titled Silent Geography, it’s currently site-specific installation at Mixed Greens gallery (in collaboration with Projective City) in New York that covers the floor with paper structures and punctuated with masses of text. These areas of words are meant to turn the space into a garden, meaning that it’s a cultivated and enclosed area that’s set apart (but close to) the wilderness.
From a distance, it’s not clear what Hazard’s soft, inviting installation is made from. It’s only upon closer inspection that you see incredible, carefully-torn sheets of paper and small details like block-printed letters. Silent Geography is meant to evoke the feel of nature but speak to those that live in cities. Mixed Greens writes:
Yet here the wilderness is not exactly that of nature but rather the din of flowing information, language, and symbol that surrounds most urban-dwellers on a daily basis. Into this flow Hazard creates a momentary pause, an immersive space of rest in which language is once again ordered and reduced to its simplest designative function.
Silent Georgraphy is on view until January 10, 2015.