Laughter is universal; it transcends culture, trends, and time. The art world, however, is not considered to be droll. Galleries and museums are stoic, intellectual spaces and works of art are discussed in academic terms. Yet in this scholarly world there are artists that buck conventions and use humor to engage us and make us laugh and think. Art is a medium of communication and the artists in this issue have found that humor is the most powerful way to engage their audience and convey their message.
This class clowns issue of Beautiful/Decay is dedicated to those artists who pack their work not only with meaning but with a powerful punch line that keeps us coming back for more. Join us as we delve into the world of Winnie Truong’s surreal and funny portraits, and find the humor in Devin Troy Strother’s discomfort with his own race. Witness how Maurizio Cattelan has become the art world’s premier prankster and gain insight into artistic duo littlewhitehead’s mixture of dark humor and lo-tech fabrication.
View our cover artist Stefan Glerum’s arresting illustrations, and Ben Aqua’s subversive photography. See how William Powhida’s cynical, self-deprecating, and universally criticizing works take the role of the court jester to a new level. As if that weren’t enough to keep you busy, we’ve also invited an international cast of artists, illustrators, and designers to create original works for our Project Pages based on our theme. So get out your X-ray specs as we explore the worlds of Beautiful/Decay’s Class Clowns.
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What started out as a simple past time, has now turned into a full on project viewed by thousands of people on social media each day. Frankfurt-based, Brazilian designer Andre Levy first started collecting coins during his travels and with a steady hand and a great imagination, has been turning them into mini artworks for a few years. With a layer of enamel and a bit of patience, the portraits of Kings and Queens long passed away are transformed into colorful cartoon figures, or heroes from comic books.
The ongoing art project is called Tales You Lose, and features tons of familiar pop cultural faces. Levy paints Marge Simpson, The Fantastic Four, Rorschach from Watchmen, Cinderella, Papa Smurf, Amy Winehouse, Apu, Princess Leia, Albert Einstein, David Bowie – you name it, he’s painted it. Levy says this about his coin series:
We are constantly surrounded by pop figures – in films, in music, comics, and even in gossip magazines. They are sometimes our escape from reality, our fantasies. Coins portray something opposite: the real, the everyday.
This project is about individual expression in opposition to massified [sic] thinking, about how our personal passions are more worthy than things that are imposed to us. The paint brings to the faces of kings and presidents borrowed narratives from other famous characters and unleash individual alternative stories.(Source)
Make sure you check out his Instagram account to see new and old miniature paintings and see how many faces you recognize. (Via Honestly WTF)
In honor of Rineke Dijkstra‘s retrospective currently on view at the Guggenheim, we figured we’d do our own little rundown of the photographer’s work. Dijkstra’s portraits illuminate all the subtle emotions and struggles inherent in being a youngster. When you’re a kid, you can’t help but be the underdog. Some cosmic order of the universe is keeping you down in some way. You want to be taller, smarter; or maybe you want a pair of sneakers that you can’t afford. And all the while, you’re not sure if you’ll ever make it out of adolescence alive. And your lack of hope makes the whole process that much worse. The painful existence of childhood brings about a certain unique wisdom. It’s not true wisdom (you haven’t experienced enough of life to be wise), but it’s close. Maybe the right term is jaded. In Dijkstra’s photographs, youthful subjects stare out at us in disdain: “what are you gonna throw at me next?” And you just want to tell them that everything’s going to be alright, that it gets better with time. But then you wonder if you’d be lying. Reconnect with your younger self with more images after the jump.
A Common Name is a Los Angeles based graphic designer and artist whose decidedly different take on street art is anything but common. In contrast to traditional 2-D street art materials like wheat paste and spray paint, she takes to the streets with bright geometric forms reminiscent of geodes, comprised completely of paper. Seeming to grow out of cracks and crevices in the eroded urban landscape, these pieces are suprisingly subtle and fragile treasures likely to be overlooked by those caught up in the constant hustle of city life. Treasure hunters and urban explorers can track down these tiny gems and peek into the painstaking process with which they’re made by checking out A Common Blog.
Just like you shouldn’t trust everything you read on the internet, you shouldn’t believe everything you see. L.A based special effects artist Ari Fararooy‘s latest photographic series is a perfect example of this. Using a tripod, mirrors, a self timer and ‘a few digital manipulations’ he has created a very surreal, and futuristic set of self portraits. He went to Joshua Tree National Park wanting to carry on his creative twists on the latest ‘selfies’ craze.
The goal was to experiment with reflections and explore the various ways I could creatively photograph myself. (Source)
He also had this aim in mind while attending the Burning Man festival in 2014. After he found himself in the strange environment that is the desert, surrounded by many creative people, he began clicking his shutter and coming up with some very inventive camera tricks, involving glow sticks, long exposures, strange perspectives and wide angles. You can see that series here.
His photographs are just as surreal as a Dali painting, but he uses modern technologies and a different set of skills. Be sure to see the extent of his talents to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary on his Facebook and Instagram pages. (Via Fubiz)
German photographer Loretta Lux captures surreal portraits of children, portraying them in a way that makes them appear as if they’re porcelain dolls. Young boys and girls stare towards the camera and with expressions that you can’t get out of your head. As they look beyond or at you, their large eyes look as if they know deep, dark secrets. Pastel and faded colors contrast with the mysterious feel that these works evoke.
Lux studied painting at Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich and uses this influence in her images. Some pieces take up to a year to complete, and her process involves a combination of photography and digital manipulation. She’ll strip the background and then place her subjects into muted, minimal environments. The flatted backdrop and realistic foreground confuse your eye and help craft these strange images.
Hasan Kale likes to work on a small scale. How small? Lets just say that he could probably stuff an entire lifetime of work in his shirt pocket and still have room for a pack of gum. The Turkish painter creates miniature landscapes and portraits on everything from coffee beans to chili pepper seeds making Persian miniature paintings feel like massive murals in comparison. While the subject matter isn’t the most groundbreaking we can’t help but get a bit giddy about the thought of biting into a chili pepper and seeing a painting of a turban clad man staring back at us. (via)