It may be hard to believe, but these colorful creations of Jason Hackenwerth‘s are made from hundreds of balloons. He twists and sculpts latex balloons around each other to resemble different kinds of organic and biological forms. Hackenwerth creates all sorts of creepy shapes and forms that look like you are seeing something in a scientist’s laboratory magnified. Super colorful amoeba, cells, or rhizopods hang from the ceiling. Bacteria-shaped sculptures are grouped together, sprouting weird sorts of growths in every direction.
The artist is not only inspired by science – last year, Hackenwerth unveiled a large piece in Scotland at the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Titled Pisces, it is an interpretation of the Greek myth about Aphrodite and Eros. Made from over 10,000 balloons, it was a massive twisting spiral of two fish and took three staff members almost 6 days to blow up. Hackenwerth says more about it:
I see this as a metaphor for the evolution for life and the unexpected ways we can transcend our greatest threats. My plan for Pisces is to create a complex spiral that will open into a huge seashell like form. This spiral will correspond with the dynamic with the motion of the universe – the double helix. It is the spiral from which all life is derived. (Source)
Hackenwerth starts his process with drawings and sketches to help visualize how his pieces will work on a large scale. He then inflates balloons and arranges them in various structures to see what will work for the final piece. He talks about the importance of his medium:
Using balloons as a medium for expression came from a desire to connect with a wider audience. Balloons are accessible and they seem to have a magic ability for people to feel joy. Perhaps it is a regression to childhood. (Source)
Dutch artist Ruud Van Empel is following in the footsteps of his Flemish ancestors and is creating some pretty confronting portraits. He digitally collages images of innocent, wide eyed children into environments of lush, hyper-colored, tropical forests, ponds and gardens. While his pictures are in no doubt beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, there is definitely something unsettling about them. The children seem a bit out of place – staring a bit too intensely at the camera as if they were possessed or hypnotized. Everything seems a bit too perfect, a bit too beautiful.
Van Empel sometimes spends weeks collating images from multiple sources to build one digital portrait. The reason his portraits seem so weird is because they are pictures of people that don’t really exist. This is a bit of an insight into his process:
First he collects all the features he needs by shooting a variety of young models in his studio and by subsequently wandering through Dutch forests, in search of fine leaves, perfect branches and the right waters. Only to tear it apart and spend weeks reconstructing it all until both the person and the setting match his desired standard of photo-realism. (Source)
It can also not go unnoticed that a majority of the kids in Van Empel’s photography are black. The artist himself grew up in a small Dutch village with a large white population. He speaks more about this influencing his work:
I grew up in a small Catholic town in the south of the Netherlands. There was only one black boy in my primary school class. In the portrait Generation 1 I expressed this situation. It shows a white class with just one black pupil. With World#1 I decided to work with more black children. It set off a whole new series of work. First I thought of portraying a girl in a dirty, old and torn-up dress, as if she were very poor. I suppose this idea popped up in my head because of the image we westerners are often given. I didn’t really like that idea though, and decided to give them the clothes my generation wore when we were kids, especially because those clothes looked very innocent to me. (Source)
Saul Bass (1920-1996) was a legendary American graphic designer and filmmaker. In 1980, twenty years after collaborating with Stanley Kubrick on storyboards for Spartacus, the two artists came together again to produce posters for The Shining. However, many drafts were needed before the recognizable, yellow one-sheet depicting a crazed, stippled face emerged into existence. Here, you will see four designs from Design Buddy and TOH, all of which Kubrick rejected, his reasons for each scrawled (somewhat harshly) in the margins. Bass’ cover letter and Kubrick’s response are also included.
Among the rejected designs are images of the maze and the hotel, which Kubrick deemed respectively as “too abstract” and “looks peculiar.” Bass also tried more interpretive approaches, such as a toppled tricycle lying eerily inside a hand, or the family of three crumbling into terrifying abstraction. Kubrick’s response was likewise as blunt: “too irrelevant,” “looks like science fiction film.” While Bass’ designs are skillfully done and represent genuine efforts to capture the essence of the groundbreaking psychological horror, most of us would probably agree that the final product — the face disintegrating into madness — suits the film best. (Via The Film Stage).
Johan Creten speaks his own language. He creates organic creatures by casting a rare medium used in the art world: clay. It has been considered too primitive, associated with craft rather than sculpture for a long time. Johan Creten imposed his vision and art and is now established in the most prestigious residencies : Sevres and Medici. (an art residency is a place where an artist is invited to work with the best artisans and manufacturers in order to create master pieces. A residency can catapult an unknown artist to fame and success overnight).
The artist was born in Belgium and is now traveling throughout the world. He calls himself an observer of the world. His mission is to translate the social tensions and injustices into beautiful abstract ceramic sculptures. While other artists would rather think about a project and have it conceived by a third party, he is choosing to dig his hands into the clay which he calls “mother earth”.
His signature are large scaled bodies covered with glazed vulvas with which he approaches themes like the ambiguity of sexuality, solitude as a threat and the injustice of social status. Ceramic was never a form of art before Johan Creten. The fact that he was able to live with the harshness of his peers ignoring his work as art is a resistantce which makes him proud. He uses this relationship to balance his art. His pieces reflect our roots in today’s world but they are facing the future.
A must see: Johan Creten solo exhibition at Gallery Perrotin in New York City this coming September 2015
Capturing monumental beauty in the little things in life, artist Pyanek photographs captivating images of everyday objects up close and personal. In his series Amazing Worlds Within Our Worlds, he photographs ordinary objects like cornflakes, book pages, and soap foam. However, these seemingly mundane objects do not look so ordinary when they are taken in Pyanek’s close-up photography style. What was once a familiar object has now become unrecognizable through the artist’s lens. The images are zoomed up close, and dramatically cropped to the point of abstraction, with Pyanek referring to this technique as macro photography.
The incredible detail shown in this series goes beyond what the naked human eye can see. We are shown tiny worlds where a grain of white sugar appears to be a diamond and a kitchen sponge looks like a strand of DNA. These stunning photos reveal every texture and color in the commonplace objects that we overlook everyday. We are able to examine every fiber of the stalk of an apple or the page of a book. Pyanek reminds us to stop and notice the small things in this remarkably beautiful series. If you are hungry for an even more dramatic, striking photographs of ordinary objects magnified, than you are sure to love the video compilation of the series Amazing Worlds Within Our Worlds, which was edited and scored by the artist himself.
What would a television see if it could look back at us? Artist Donna Stevens reveals images of children hypnotically looking into a television screen in her series titled Idiot Box. Each photographs captures the entranced look on a child’s face as they gaze on with a zombie-like stare, complete with the glow of the screen lighting up their face. Although this series is somewhat comical, as the children have their mouths hanging open or a silly grimace slapped on, there is a heavy darkness to it. Stevens’s aims to question the role of technology in our society and explore the effects it may have as children are exposed to it at such a young age at such a high volume. Although we can benefit from technology, what is lacking in our lives because of it? Although Idiot Box includes fairly simple images, the affect the vacant eyes have on the viewer is enough to make you stop and think.
Stevens’ incredibly memorable photography explores themes of identity and hardship, as she is interested in people’s journey to find their place in the world. Humanity’s struggles can be found as a theme in her work, both in Idiot Box and in her series Thirteen. In the latter series, she poignantly captures the anxiety and uncertainty that comes along with becoming a woman. Stevens’ ability to encompass such strong emotions and themes in a single portrait is apparent in each photograph. Originally hailing from Australia, the photographer is currently based in Brooklyn, where she continues to create her sharp, thought provoking work.
Kissing is an act of intimacy that has been iconically portrayed throughout art history — take the sculptural power of Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss, for example, or Gustav Klimt’s own interpretation of the erotic gesture at the dawn of modernism. Fast forward over a century later, and photographer Maggie West has revisited this tradition with her own contemporary style. Described as “dreamy” and “hallucinatory,” West’s debut book KISS is a sensual photo diary of LA-based artists. Dripping in a haze of neon eroticism, the gentle lovers in West’s photos embrace and engage each other with intense intimacy. In a statement provided to Beautiful/Decay, West explains the concept and creation of KISS:
By placing a common activity in such a dreamlike setting, I wanted the readers to reexamine the energy and intimacy taking place each time a couple embraces each other. Through the color choices and extreme close up angles, I hope that the viewer can appreciate specific aspects of a kiss that they may not have otherwise noticed.
[…] One of the objectives of the book was to examine the dynamic between a variety of relationships — not just established couples. Some couples had been dating for years, some were just friends, some barely knew each other, etc.
Initially everyone, no matter their relationship, was a little nervous. However, kissing is such a physical act that within a few minutes the models were so engrossed in each other that they seemed to forget they were being photographed.
Most of the models were chosen from among West’s friends who she knew in the LA community — “models, musicians, artists, porn stars, dancers” and more make up the group. Portraying the kiss as an act that knows no distinctions of identity or lifestyle preferences, KISS features a variety of ethnicities and sexualities, celebrating diversity and the fluid nature of attraction, desire, and love. “The kiss is a beautiful exchange regardless of the relationship,” West writes. And this is what KISS allows us to focus on: the gentleness of the moment, the tantalizing hesitation, and the oscillation of desiring energy and tenderness that makes kissing one of the most powerful ways to connect both flesh and heart.
KISS features a foreward by artist and journalist Hannah Stouffer. The launch party for the book is taking place on the rooftop of The Ace Hotel in Los Angeles on June 14th at 8pm. Visit West’s website, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to view more of her work. (Via Juxtapoz)
Raqib Shaw was born in Calcultta, India. He now lives in London where he graduated from Central St Martins School of Arts and based his house/studio in the South London neighborhood.
His work is mostly comprised of paintings. He uses a unique technique: he paints with a porcupine quill and car paint. Every motif is outlined in embossed gold, a technique similar to ‘cloisonné’ found in early Asian pottery, which is a source of inspiration.
The artist’s fantastical world is full of intricate details, rich colors, and jewel-like surfaces, masking an intense violent and sexual content. It’s an explosion of Western architecture (arches, columns, wall decorations), vibrant flora and unexpected animals that have human bodies (peacoks, ducks, roosters, reptiles).
The result from far is intoxicating; but as the viewer, you want to come closer and admire the beauty of the details. The paintings, which at first can feel overwhelming become fascinating in terms of color, shapes and harmony. Underneath the bizarre combinations of the figures, there is the celebration of a society free of moral restraint.
Raqib Shaw has added new paintings in this recent parisian exhibition. Three of them are self portraits, showing the artist in his house/studio. Although his own image never clearly appears, he made sure his favorite personal elements were recognizable: his dogs, views from his studio’s window, champagne bottles and his new bronze sculptures.
Raqib Shaw’s second solo exhibition is currently at the Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery in Paris, Marais location, until July 25th 2015.