The saying “home is where the heart is” very rarely relates to contemporary art. And though the works featured here are not directly about home, they are informed to some degree by immediate family,relationships and experiences that stem from it. In a global spectrum of east meets west these five artists come from genres ranging from Chinese Avant Garde to lowbrow painting, from surrealism to contemporary portraiture, to name a few. The paintings, mixed media works and digital media stills of artists: Song Dong, Brooke Grucella, Seonna Hong, Aaron Holz and Zhang Xiaogang exemplify the diversity with which the artists’ loved ones have become not only the subject for the works, but also at times part of the process, as well as a platform to tell a story that becomes increasingly universal.
I recall visiting the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco a couple of years ago to see Song Dong’s massive solo exhibition of works made with his family members as subjects, as well as a massive installation that incorporated decades worth of of family possessions as material. His work is deeply personal, with a strong narrative thread, and truly draw you into his world with their reverence and profoundly flawless execution. Zhang Xiaogang’s works from his series Bloodlines uses other family portraits as a vehicle for conveying the experiences of his immediate family that they experienced as he came of age during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Each piece in this series has a thin red line that weaves throughout the composition, symbolizing the connection of heritage and family.
Our planet is a truly magical work of art; complex, multifaceted and textural. Perhaps this is why Andy Warhol, a name that is unlikely to be associated with this topic, once said, “Land really is the best art.” Viewed in this simplistic yet profound light, land, or Earth, serves almost as found object in the implementation of Earthworks. In other instances land becomes the canvas, or the sculptural negative space for installation, or even a foundation and medium to explore sociocultural patterns.
Lita Albuquerque has used the earth and its materials for decades to create ephemeral and spiritually infused work. Her incorporation of performance, photography and installation creates multiple dimensions and lenses to experience our world, our relationship to earth and the stars, as well as their rhythms and cycles. The images featured here of her project Stellar Axis document an artistic expedition into Antarctica, which was the first and largest ephemeral work created on the continent. The installation of ninety-nine spheres across the icy landscape mimics the pattern of the ninety-nine Antarctic stars above- visually linking Earth to the cosmos.
Amidst the overwhelming violence seen in Ukraine’s recent riots, Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz (an outsider) decides to create visually stunning, but heartbreaking images that explore Ukraine’s reactions to the sudden cultural and political changes.
By taking some of the techniques applied by Sergey Larenkov on his famous series, The Ghosts of World War II, Diaz creates images that merge shots of Kiev from before and after the Ukraine riots using the same vantage points. Through this technique, a masterful trick made possible by the almighty Photoshop, the viewer is able to experience two polar opposites: a happy, peaceful Ukraine, and a chaotic Ukraine.
Looking at the dramatic contrast between happy people enjoying the sun and peace and the anger of people behind in barricades is disheartening.
Art can be made with anything. You can use a stick, the back of a napkin or a Roomba vacuum can be used to create new imagery. This series of photos were made by artists from all over the world who attached various lights on top of the saucer shaped vacuums, set up a camera at a long exposure and let the good times roll. The result is a series of light drawings that are straight out of your favorite laser tag session or Tron. There’s even a Flickr image pool where you can upload your own Roomba art and join the new vacuum art movement!
Tom Fruin made his solo debut at Mike Weiss Gallery with quilts made of drug baggies. 11 years later, his sculptures maintain reference to that mosaic, but have taken on a different form as colourful plexiglass architecture. The baggies for his earlier artworks were found on the street and sewn into a pastiche. It actually seems like quite a natural progression for Fruin to go from baggies to plexiglass that imitates stained glass. The baggies already had the feeling of stained glass windows, and the choice to use plexiglass instead of glass allows the work to maintain that plastic durability or roughness that regular glass would not.
Fruin’s most recent sculpture is installed in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The structure has lights installed on the inside, so that at night it is lit up. Whether lit from the sun during the day or at night by the artificial lighting, the colourful shadows cast by the installation are totally enjoyable. It’s interesting that stained glass and drug baggies should come together so coherently in Fruin’s work. From his rather turbulent beginning as a divisive artist, Fruin is cooling it down with this work. Still, as stained glass belongs to a religious symbolism, the invocation of the baggie configuration remains a mildly daring one.
Artist Sun K. Kwak paints with tape. She had begun her career as a painter but had felt disconnected with the medium. After experimenting with black masking tape Kwak had found her choice medium. Speaking of her first experience working with the tape, she says, “It felt like black ink pouring out over my fingers. It was very fresh, alive, and free.” The large installation pictured here is found at the Brooklyn Museum and is titled Enfolding 280 Hours – a reference to the amount of time needed to install the work.
Marc McAndrews’ simple and relaxed style lends a sense of familiarity to his portraits. It’s almost as if you could look in your family photo albums at home and find these people staring back at you. The motel owners, waitresses, and every day folk he makes his subjects are often haunting. At the same time, their gazes even more piercing than trained models.