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Kehinde Wiley’s Bold Paintings Reconfigure The Way African American Culture Is Portrayed

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Kehinde Wiley‘s impressive painting career is being celebrated at the Brooklyn Museum in a grand exhibition that is open right now. For fourteen years, he has been painting bold, decorative oil paintings that are reconfiguring the way African American culture is portrayed in art. He takes the techniques from the old European portraiture masters and turns them into modern and fresh images, relevant to a post-colonial culture. Old stuffy aristocrats and patrons wearing flouncy blouses and ridiculous wigs from centuries gone by, are replaced by black subjects with a certain street style to them.

Wiley asks different people – most of whom are regular passer-bys on the streets in Harlem, to sit for his portraits. They are given different art history books full of ornate backgrounds to choose from to complement their portrait. Wiley then paints them reenacting certain poses, imitating the European subjects and places the chosen embellishments behind and over their image. His style is a fusion of many different elements – French Rococo and the High Renaissance, Islamic architecture, West African textile design and urban hip hop, and is a result of his own mixed heritage.

Wiley later went on to create a series called The World Stage, where he traveled to Mumbai, Senegal, Dakar and Rio de Janeiro to portray different cultures and traditions in his work. He explains more:

One of the reasons I chose Brazil, Nigeria, India and China is that these are all the points of anxiety and curiosity and production that are going on in the world that are changing the way we see empire. As I’ve been traveling, I started to notice that the way many people in other parts of the world interact with American culture is through black American expression. It’s an interesting phenomenon. (Source)

Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic is an exhibition showing over 60 of his paintings and sculptures, and is on until the 24th of May.

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Matt R. Martin’s Atmospheric Paintings Display Technical Skill And Eerie Nudes

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In this day and age of digital and high tech art, painter Matt R. Martin looks to redefine the traditional nude. An honorable task since the human figure has been painted in hundreds maybe thousands of positions. For Martin it means looking for new ways to paint an age old subject matter using oil with the expertise of a skilled draftsman. His marks produce mysterious settings which depict dual bodies tangled upside down on a torn leather recliner or snuggled up to a large window. The faces are partially covered lending more intrigue to the stark atmosphere. In one painting a dozen or so male clones are in the ocean with their backs toward the viewer. The figures are standing up to the waist in water and soon starts taking on various metaphysical nuances. A purgatory narrative eventually emerges making you wonder if the souls are half saved or half damned.

Technically the paintings are exquisitely made. They take influence in sheer luminosity from the great Andrew Wyeth. Like him Martin is able to paint skin where you can almost see the blood pumping through veins which is pretty remarkable. There’s definitely something to be said for pure technical skill and Martin should be noticed for his ability. The artist claims in his statement that he has been influenced by film, Surrealism and representational art. (via artfucksme)

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Jason Thielke’s Laser-Cut Figures Contain Dissecting Lines Like Blueprints Of The Body

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The dissecting cuts and lines shooting across the work of artist Jason Thielke create incredible images of figures full of expression. His incredible, illustrative art is made by laser cutting wood panels, with acrylic paint and ink to add color and highlight details. Many of his pieces have so many lines etched into the work; it is difficult to tell the negative space from the positive. Thielke makes great use of negative space in his etchings, forming intricate and dynamic shape and composition. Each figure contains so many marks streaking across their body, adding shapes and patterns that form constellations within them.

Thielke’s lines seem organic, swirling around the figures hair and face, forming expression. However, the etched lines are also highly geometric and architectural, building a blue print for the body. Such drastic, harsh angles create a dramatic atmosphere with striking faces filled with piercing eyes. These intersecting lines express,

“conflict between one’s ability to implement self control and compulsion to manipulate and constantly self-gratify.”

Thielke’s fragmented bodies cut through you with a powerful emotion as they keep pulling you deep under their spell, inviting you to examine every cut in the composition. The artist does not only uses the technique of laser etching to create his figures, but has also inked his cut wood panels like a woodblock and then used them to make prints. Thielke has exhibited all across the U.S. from Boston to San Francisco. His work can be found at David B. Smith Gallery in Denver, Colorado, where Thielke currently lives.

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Joanne Leah’s Photography Is Brimming With Beauty And Despair

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Joanne Leah‘s photographs have a kinetic aura, a dark mysterious crackle of energy that seems to hint at struggle and loss. Even with swathes of jewel tones, Leah’s work is muted, almost like crime scene photos. Some of her subjects are strewn about the floor like fallen souls on a battlefield. Others seem to be entombed — though whether in a sort of grave or a chrysalis, it remains to be seen. Permeating all her photos is a feeling of suffocation, of the inevitability of the inescapable. 

In her artist’s statement, Leah says:
When I was a child, I would explore the woods behind my house. I ventured alone, following a small creek. One winter day, I deviated from my usual path. As I walked, I heard a man shout. A pack of barking dogs ran toward me. I immediately dropped to the snowy ground and pretended to be dead. I held my breath. The dogs surrounded me, sniffed and snorted. I had never felt that kind of fear before, the fear of being eaten alive.”
There is a surreal fairy tale feeling to Leah’s photos. There is also an unmistakable feeling of intimacy. There’s also a sense that this is a cautionary tale, that these everyday people have come to quietly grim fates that could happen anywhere, to anyone. (via Dark Silence in Suburbia)

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Mikael Aldo’s Conceptual Photography Explores Scenes Of Emotional Intensity And Transition

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Mikael Aldo is an Indonesian photographer who creates ambitious scenes that are both intimate and epic. In each image, the subjects appear to be engaged in moments of intensity and transition, whether it be ascending towards the heavens, transforming into a tree, or standing before a burning doorway. There often seems to be an atmosphere of darkness, or an allusion to death; one person, submerged in water, covers their face with an animal skull, and in another they lie quietly as birds pass overhead. Such scenes, however, are more serene and beautiful than they are grim. As viewers, we are never certain of what is going on (or what is about to happen), but this is Aldo’s intention: to connect with us via interpretations deriving from our own personal memories and emotions. As he wrote to Beautiful/Decay: “I hope that people feel something towards my photographs — a sense of connection between them and what I try to convey.”

Aldo’s creative process is its own dynamic transformation, arising from experiences and reflections and merging into conceptual scenes. When asked how he develops his ideas, Aldo explained: “I imagine them moving. Alive. That is how I connect one element to the others. Oftentimes I also make sketches, and write specific details on how I want something to be.” The result of this living, holistic process is a set of images that transport us on a creative journey through inner, symbolic worlds. Here, on the edge of something transformative, the photographic subjects demonstrate how to let go while embracing change.

Visit Aldo’s website, Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter and follow his inspiring work. (Via Art Fucks Me)

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Ellen Jewett Sculpts Flowing Creatures Woven With Tiny Plants, Animals, And Objects

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Ellen Jewett is a Canadian artist who creates flowing sculptural fusions of plants, animals and objects. Among her mystical menagerie is a wild boar with shrubs growing from its mane, foxes with tails sprouting into grass, and a deer whose body resembles a tree-shrouded grove. As singular beasts, Jewett’s creatures are beautiful and dynamic, but look closer and you will see that each one is composed of tinier parts, microcosms of flora, fauna, and objects that weave seamlessly together. These layered components infuse each sculpture with multiple narratives, from celebrations of life and growth, to stories of death, decay, and burden in the form of manmade debris. As Jewett explains:

At first glance my work explores the more modern prosaic concept of nature: a source of serene nostalgia balanced with the more visceral experience of ‘wildness’ as remarkably alien and indifferent. Upon closer inspection of each ‘creature’ the viewer may discover a frieze on which themes as familiar as domestication and as abrasive as domination fall into sharp relief.  (Source)

Jewett makes the sculptures from the inside out, layering materials and utilizing negative space to create hollowed works that flow into the air around them: dense frames unravel into breezy foliage and empty space, creating habitats for fluttering, sculpted birds. The results of these disentangled bodies are creatures that speak their strengths via expressions of lightness, vulnerability, and emotion. Jewett describes this effect:

Over time I find my sculptures are evolving to be of greater emotional presence by using less physical substance: I subtract more and more to increase the negative space. The element of weight, which has always seemed so fundamentally tied to the medium of sculpture, is stripped away and the laws of gravity are no longer in full effect. In reading the stories contained in each piece we are forced to acknowledge their emotional gravity cloaked as it is in the light, the feminine, the fragile, and the unknowable.  (Source)

As part of her creative and flowing artistic practice, Jewett strives to free her work from materials with toxic properties, such as glazes, paints, and finishes. This greatly limits what she can use, but at the same time, incites her imagination and makes her work even more unique. “Where possible I source the natural, the local, the low impact and, always, the authentic,” she writes (Source). Check out Jewett’s website for more beautiful and holistic creations. (Via Lost at E Minor)

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The Vegan Cakes Of Stephen McCarty Are Cosmic And Delicious Mandalas

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Chef Stephen McCarty is giving new meaning to the relationship between art and cuisine. Under the name Sukhavati Raw Desserts he creates cakes which are made from all vegan ingredients and decorated with exquisitely designed Mandalas. With intricate detail he comprises his vegan cakes in unique colors with the thought that it will all be consumed and gone in a few days. Very much like Buddhist Monk sand drawings there’s so much care involved in creating something beautiful which at the same time is transient. Just another symbolic example of life’s impermanence and how it should be relished moment to moment.

The colors used in McCarty’s cakes are all made from natural plant and fruit extracts. Some of the mouthwatering flavors include banana jungle nut butter chocolate cheesecake, coconut lime raw vegan cheesecake and acai blueberry mango cheesecake. The names like the colors of this talented chef’s cakes are well thought out and executed beautifully. Some resemble tie dye t-shirts while others reflect complex new age patterns. The coconut lime cheesecake looks exceptionally good not only in taste but appearance as well. A deep green is the primary pigment used to create its minimal but detailed design. One ultimately good enough to eat.

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Osamu Yokonami’s Voyeuristic Photos Of Groups Of Girls Off In A Distance

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Japanese photographer Osamu Yokonami’s voyeuristic series Assembly features groups of young women who all dress the same. The eerie images are shot from a distance, making the viewer feel as if they’re spying on the troops. And with their backs turned towards the camera, you don’t know exactly what their motivations are. Although they don’t appear to be causing any mischief, we can’t be so sure.

Yokonami writes about Assembly, stating:

Each person has their own personality. I try to keep a bit of distance between us in this work. Then, the existence of each person disappeared and the existence of the group appeared instead. The strength and beauty as a collective entity stood out more by being in nature. I was attracted to the expressiveness of the group. (Via WeTheUrban)

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