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Peter Stichbury’s Unsettling Clone-Like Portraits

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Hyper-realism reaches a point of surreal alienation in New Zealand-born Peter Stichbury’s paintings. These alienated and alienating faces, doll-like and expressionless, detail what could be a new race of clones, mannequins, or digitally rendered animations. Well-dressed, exceedingly manicured, completely devoid of facial emotion, their middle gaze lost on an unknown point, they carry an unsettling quality about them. Too clean and too polished, there is an unwelcoming aspect permeating from their presence. They emit either ennui or psychopathy, but it’s hard to tell which, and the need to sort that distinction is a major part of the allure with his work; trying to articulate the intention of the face staring out becomes the major connecting point. But don’t stare too long…

His work, as summarized on Artspace:

“Peter Stichbury’s portraits of wide-eyed, flawlessly polished, and sharply dressed figures are both captivating and uncanny. Stichbury employs a cool color palette—icy grey for the eyes, mannequin-cream for the skin—expelling all traces of human warmth or internal, emotional activity. Despite their manicured appearances, the figures avert their eyes as if nervous or insecure. Like the generic representations of celebrities and other public figures from which the artist culls some of his subjects, the images he produces incite stifling feelings of isolation and alienation. Painted with stunning precision, Stichbury’s painting technique invites comparison to airbrushing and the compulsive obsession with cultivating the perfect public image. ” (Excerpt from Source)

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Joseph DeLappe Proves Money Is Power By Imprinting Bills With Drones

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Specializing in digital media, artist and professor Joseph DeLappe boasts a diverse background. While his portfolio features seemingly traditional experience in painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, and curatorial work, it also presents more inventive undertakings, titled “interventions/actions.” Spanning social media experiments and fake newspaper articles, this distinctive body of work is entirely political, with the most recent project, In Drones We Trust, featuring paper money as its platform.

Described as a “crowd sourced, participatory rubber stamp currency intervention,”  In Drones We Trust calls for volunteers all across America to brand their bills with a tiny stamp depicting an MQ1 Predator Drone. DeLappe explains:

The idea came after closely examining U.S. currency – all but the $1 dollar bill feature a pastoral depiction of a notable government building or monument on the back of the bills, albeit with lonely, empty skies. It seems appropriate, considering our current use of drones in foreign skies, to symbolically bring them home to fly over our most notable patriotic structures.

Subtle enough to blend in with their printed surroundings but graphic enough to stand out, the colorful marks stamped on the notes succeed as both an aesthetic addition and as a political statement. By adorning paper currency with these controversial and heavily symbolic imprints, DeLappe is able to both stealthily spread his message and get his art into circulation—literally. (Via Vandalog)

To join the cause and put your money where your mouth is, get your own drone stamp here!

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Damien Hirst Made Artwork That’s Actually Good

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Damien Hirst’s exhibition at White Cube Sao Paolo, called Black Scalpel Cityscapes, is surprisingly compelling conceptually and technically intriguing. Hirst, though I’m sure I don’t really need to tell you this, reader, is a very divisive artist. His practice is a slippery one. It’s difficult to dismiss him, because he’s carved out a big space for himself in commercial galleries, but to some work, in example his spot paintings, feel a bit like an emperor wears no clothes scenario. It’s easy to argue that Hirst’s legacy is the success of his practice itself as a sort of art piece, and it would be true that he’s figured out some notable strategy for success, but whether it’s particularly honest or admirable is a question often dismissed by the powers that profit from Hirst or uphold his ideology.

In contrast to all this, Hirst’s most recent series is unexpectedly insightful. He recreates bird’s-eye view images of international cities using paint, surgical tools, and other industrial instruments. The materials for the Rio painting consist of Scalpel blades, skin graft blades, zips, stitching needles, aluminum filings, pins, stainless steel studs, fish hooks, steel wire cutting spool and gloss paint on canvas. On the White Cube website, Hirst’s statement reads:

Hirst investigates subjects pertaining to the sometimes-disquieting realities of modern life – surveillance, urbanisation, globalisation and the virtual nature of conflict – as well as elements relating to the universal human condition, such as our inability to arrest physical decay.

In the paintings, manmade features and natural elements such as buildings, rivers and roads are depicted in scalpels as well as razor blades, hooks, iron filings and safety-pins, all set against black backgrounds. For this exhibition, Hirst selected 17 cities, which are either sites of recent conflict, cities relating to the artist’s own life, or centres of economic, political or religious significance

What’s exciting about this series is that the themes Hirst claims to be examining are clear and his execution is effective. The paintings are visually impressive and also hold up conceptually, and most importantly, they tackle relevant political issues. Basically, it’s not bullshit. Congratulations, Damien Hirst. (Via The Fox is Black)

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Matthew Christopher Documents Forgotten Spaces In Abandoned America

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Ten years ago Philadelphia photographer Matthew Christopher began a photo series attempting to document the decline of the state hospital system. Today his evocative and beautiful collection, “Abandoned America”, includes images of asylums, institutions, military, hospitals/health care, prisons, schools, power plants, factories, mills, quarries, hotels, transportation, theaters, houses, churches, and graveyards. The photos are beautifully composed and shot and are totally captivating in their emptiness.

“There is an undeniably artistic element to decayed sites, and an immense number of social, theological, and philosophical questions they pose. Abandoned America’s aim encompasses not only the historical and photographic cataloging of such sites, but also on a larger scale a eulogy for the lost ways of life they represent, a statement of their emotional, spiritual, and metaphoric relevance to our everyday lives, and a sense of the visceral experience of entering a parallel universe of silence, rust, and peeling paint.”

The pictures of abandoned spaces seem to want to create a narrative. They ask questions: What is the difference between a place abandoned temporarily and permanently? Is it a matter of chance, of luck? When you walk out the door, are you certain that you’re coming back? What sort of artifacts does a person leave? There is a poignancy to these spaces, a haunted voyeurism, a solemn quality to their emptiness. What lives were being lived here, and why were they interrupted?

Christoper’s book, Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences, will be released on December 7th. He also posts updates on his Facebook page.

“There is something magical and mysterious about spaces that are no longer in use, where nature and time and man’s presence have combined to create something absolutely unique,” says Christopher. “I hope that people reading my book can experience that sense of the transcendental and sublime that I did when I photographed these forgotten places. This book is a chance to examine why we are losing so many sites that are critical to our identity and culture.”

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Anton Vill’s Grotesque Pen Drawings Are Beautifully Exquisite

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The ink drawings of Anton Vill are exquisite and small – about the size of your average fork. Vill is highly skilled in wielding a pen, and he makes tiny marks so fine that they appear as a pencil drawing or even as an engraving from the 17th century. But, looking closely at the subject matter, you discover that they are wholly contemporary, like something out of a nightmare.

We see babies piled in a shopping cart, a grotesque separation of someone’s head, and countless people that are wrapped up in the long hair of a Cousin It-type character. Vill’s work is quietly visceral and bizarre, and it doesn’t immediately strike you as strange; this creates a greater impact when you study his drawings. The longer that you look, the more you’ll discover and get a glimpse into the artist’s imagination. (Via Faith is Torment)

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Artist Zaps 15,000 Volts Of Electricity Into film To Create Beautiful Abstractions

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Brooklyn electronic media artist Phillip Stearns is exhibiting a new series of some pretty wild photography, and all produced without the use of a camera. Applying different household materials (bleach, vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, salt, rubbing alcohol) before and after exposure to electrical currents, Stearns was able to produce some electrifying images. Applying 15,000 volts of alternating current directly to the surface of instant film, the electricity arced, ignited, and sparked, leaving beautiful patterns in the emulsion.

Stearns has been exploring his understanding of what a digital or photographic image is, through many different approaches. He sees images, sound and video not only as signals, or a way or producing something, but as raw materials to use and to exploit. In the Evident Material exhibition, he puts this theory into practice and explores the relationship between the human eye and the camera.

The sentiment that the camera is an extension of the eye is taken to an extreme. When looking through the Fujifilm FP-100c instant color film datasheets, the similarities between the layering of materials in the film and the layering of cells in the retinal is striking. Perhaps it is because the development of such film technologies parallels an evolving understanding of how the eye sees. (Source)

The similarities don’t end there. Stearns commented that the sparks he was experimenting with on the film stock, function in a similar way as the electric impulses in our eyes when processing images.

I find it curious and exhilarating that the impressions left behind after developing these extreme exposures so perfectly resemble networks of blood vessels in the retina. (Source)

Evident Material exhibition opened on November 15 at Transfer Gallery in New York and will continue until December 13. (Via The Creators Project)

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Choi Xooang’s Exquisitely Nightmarish Human Sculptures

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Korean artist Choi Xooang creates sculptures that you’d see in your nightmares. The grotesque artworks are made out of resin and shocking in the brutal ways that they manipulate the human body. Severed limbs, skin corsets, and people-made backpacks are all featured in these pale, hyperreal mutant characters. Although they feature exquisite craftsmanship (the life-like details are stunning), it’s hard to get away from subject matter.

Galerie Albert Benamou – Véronique Maxé, who represent the artist, write about Choi’s work, stating the ideas behind his work:

His existentialist creatures, in the torments of their flesh and their contradictions, become our double dumb and clueless. The artist says that emotions are the only things given to a man or woman apart from their social status in the functioning of a capitalist society. Choi Xooang not only gives us his own feelings but attempts to retrieve a collective soul, a chart of all the sufferings and joys experienced by everyone.

We see these types of feelings represented; while there is pain, there is also sensuality between the characters, and even some eroticism shown throughout the strange hybrid people. With this, Choi communicates that pain and pleasure can walk a thin line. (Via Hi Fructose)

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The Beautiful/Decay Shop Grand Reopening!

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Beautiful/Decay is thrilled to announce the grand reopening of the B/D Shop! At first look you’ll notice a bolder, brighter layout and big crisp photos. Our books, posters, and back issues of the zine are – of course – still available for purchase. In addition, we are very excited to now start releasing limited edition prints and other products on a regular basis.

Our plan is to do multiple releases every month, beginning this month. Each release will be an opportunity to own ( and support ) an artist’s work that has moved and mesmerized you. A generous portion of the sales goes right back to each of the artists we work with.

Stay tuned for more information and announcements, and sign up for the mailing list to get updates on new print releases.

Now, take a few moments and check out the new Beautiful/Decay Shop!

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