Jay Davis makes paintings which recombine everyday things into elegant assemblages. A single painting might combine corporate logos with the food we eat, alongside expressive abstract paintings, placing all these separate symbols side-by-side inside one larger painting that retains a semi-abstract composition. I was briefly in Jay’s studio, and he talked to me about Doritos logos, MasterCard colors, and the way an orange unfolds when you cut it and press it flat on a table, and while he was talking I had the feeling of a deep rustling in my subconscious, like he was talking to my id, or hypnotizing me with corporate jargon. If you are in Montgomery, Alabama you can see a solo shows of Davis’ work at Triumph and Disaster Gallery until December 31st ’14. You can also pick up the Exquisite Corpse catalog from Mass Gallery in Austin, Texas, which has a nice spread of his paintings.
In an age of techno-wizardry, photographer Peter Thorpe is keeping magic alive the old-fashioned way. The stages he sets are all real: the props, the costumes — and yes, the dog. To celebrate the holidays, Thorpe and his family have a delightful tradition of creating holiday cards that are straight out of the storybooks. The star of the show is Razzle, the family pet dog who is transformed into a mouse, a fairy, a roast turkey, and more.
Of the 20-year-strong tradition, Thorpe says,
“The fun for me, has been choosing to continue to create these traditionally rather than with Photoshop, by making my own sets + props and using a fair bit of food bribery!”
Thorpe must have been feeding Razzle some tasty morsels indeed, because some of the behind-the-scenes costuming appears to be quite elaborate. In one scene, Razzle takes on a more avian aspect, sitting in a mid-air harness and wearing a full-body felt costume and a beak.
Razzle has retired from the stage as she’s “elderly” and has a “weak heart,” but hopefully she’ll be partaking in the off-screen holiday festivities for many more years to come. (via Laughing Squid)
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.
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Charles Clary, a paper artist, has begun a body of work calling to the nostalgia of the 80s and 90s. Taking VHS boxes from old movie favorites and the containers for childhood games, like Operation and Monopoly, he cuts into the cardboard and weaves through a layered paper sculpture.
The concept is interesting although it is not absolutely clear what purpose the paper layering is serving in reference to the found items. While I find Clary’s work to be provocative and unique in most of the settings he has explored, in this specific scenario, the nostalgic entertainment pieces and the paper formations seem more to detract from one another as opposed to enhancing or adding to the viewer’s experience.
As explained in his artist statement:
“I use paper to create a world of fiction that challenges the viewer to suspend disbelief and venture into my fabricated reality. By layering paper I am able to build intriguing land formations that mimic viral colonies and concentric sound waves. These strange landmasses contaminate and infect the surfaces they inhabit transforming the space into something suitable for their gestation. Towers of paper and color jut into the viewer’s space inviting playful interactions between the viewer and this conceived world.”
Illustrator Raphaël Vicenzi, also known as Mydeadpony, combines watercolor, digital media, and typography in the creation of stunning and imaginative portraits. His female characters are a troubling (but fascinating) combination of darkness and light; washed in pastel colours, their seemingly innocent faces and figures are fragmented with images and words, from swords to jerrycans to obscure declarations of “wake up” and “wolves in the house.” These interposing objects cause the sensual apathy of the faces to fall away into a richer complexity.
When I asked Vicenzi about his creative process, he explained that it is very much driven by stream-of-consciousness: “my process is to start working on an illustration even if I am not sure where I am going.” He builds his pieces bit by bit, exploring and discovering them as if they were living entities. And while the results are beautiful and eclectic, Vicenzi admits that his art involves “a constant struggle, battling with myself about this or [that] decision.” However, the results are powerful, multimedia creations. “It’s worth it,” Vicenzi writes. “No pain no gain.”
Mydeadpony’s pieces speak to us with a familiar melancholy, as they explore the underlying nature of our emotional lives; beneath every face is an interplay of longing, pain, desire, anticipation, and nostalgia. The name “Mydeadpony” itself emerged from a photograph the artist found of himself: a child sitting on a white pony. Upon realizing the pony was long dead, this experience made him profoundly aware of the irreversible passage of time, and how we experience transformative loss and change at several points in our lives. This is the emotional, visceral core of Vicenzi’s work; hard to describe, but intensely palpable. Check out his website for a gallery of his pieces.
Earlier this year, artists Bryan Lewis Saunders and John Duncan were invited to perform at the Lausanne Underground Film & Music Festival (LUFF) in Switzerland. The subject of the performance is one that weighs heavily on the collective human conscience: torture.
The instrument of horror in the performance was The Apollo Chair, which was infamously used by Iran’s secret police. Saunders would be strapped down into it; Duncan would wield a stun gun capable of emitting 5 million volts. An altogether harrowing performance piece, the nightmare was completed by a tin can placed over Saunders head in a grim mask that is practically funereal.
In preparation for the performance, Saunders submitted himself to torture by his own hand as well as those of his friends. During each painful session, he created a series of mixed media art pieces named, “While Being Tortured,” a raw collection of first-person suffering. The series is painful to look at, a searing indictment of the terrors and evils human beings are capable of.
Each piece evokes a claustrophobic sense of helplessness, reduced to an almost primitive artform. Some are more coherent, showing clearly the entry wounds, where the bone is being bent and the skin is being torn. Others are jagged jolts of color and furious scribbling, as though coming straight from the lizard brain. The primal shapes and lines are disturbing suggestions of the kind of seismic experience tearing through the artist.
We’ve featured Saunders’ art before as he explored the effects of drug use in his artwork. Similarly, “While Being Tortured” is a visceral window into others’ experiences in a way that might not be accessible otherwise. “In no way do I wish to equate my experiences with [victims of torture] or belittle their experiences with my art,” Saunders says. “My goal was simply to create a different way of bringing awareness to something that is currently happening in over 200 countries throughout the world.”
Photographer Amy Friend‘s series Dare Alle Luce is a visual interpretation of the Italian saying – ‘to bring to the light’ (in reference to birth). She has birthed new light (literally) into something old. Sourcing vintage photographs from markets and online, she has pierced them with hundreds of holes, tracing around silhouettes and filling shapes with delicate perforations, flooded by light. Initially starting the project by embroidering the images, she found the effect of hundreds of little needle holes more interesting and decided to pursue that technique instead. Instilling new life into these images from the past, Friend has created hauntingly mysterious objects that exist in between historical and contemporary worlds. She says of her motivation:
I aim to comment on the fragile quality of the photographic object but also to the equal fragility of our lives, our history. All are lost so easily. By playing with the tools of photography, I “re-use” light by allowing it to shine through the holes in the images. In a somewhat playful and yet literal manner, I return the subject of the photographs back to the light, while simultaneously bringing them forward. (Source)
She goes on to say:
In my work I gravitate towards ideas relating to time, memory, impermanence, and the fluctuations of life…. In my practice I tend to work within the medium of photography, however, I am not concerned with capturing a “concrete” reality. Instead, I aim to use photography as a medium that offers the possibility of exploring the relationship between what is visible and non-visible. (Source)