Photographer William Mortensen (1897-1965) was known throughout his life as someone who took pictures of Hollywood Stars. These were during the 1920s and depicted celluloid figures in a pictorialist romantic style. In his spare time, Mortensen would create images featuring semi-nude women engaged in various acts of witchcraft and debauchery. Mortensen’s practice of creating elaborately staged scenes and technical effects were ahead of their time. They set certain standards and became popular trends in fine art photography still valid today.
By using different elements in his pictures, Mortensen also turns these unique creations into storyboards filled with narrative. There’s movement and action in these stills which add to their beauty.
Despite the apparent influence, Mortensen would have great debates with Anselm Adams, the great naturalist who would call him a heretic and the anti-Christ. Funny be known now and probably back then too that the anti-Christ would always be much more interesting a subject to ponder in the realm of ideas.
Iconic Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei has never shied away from political ideas in his art. His contributions to this year’s Venice Biennale are no exception. Bang utilizes 886 stools to create this sprawling installation. Such three legged stools were traditionally handcrafted and a common item in many Chinese households. They had numerous uses and were often passed down through generations. With the onset of the Cultural Revolution and modernization such stools soon disappeared. The enormous structure seems to have grown uncontrollably but organically – much like the explosion of growth in population urban centers, and consumer products.
Straight addresses the tragic 2008 Sichuan Earthquake and specifically the thousands of children’s lives claimed by the disaster. Ai Wei Wei straightened 150 tons of mangled steel rebar and neatly stacked in the project space. While bringing to mind the suspicion of shoddy school construction the installation also serves as a vehicle to mourn, remember, and address. Straight reflects Ai Wei Wei’s desire to straighten out the complexities and problems surrounding the massive casualties. [via]
Patrick Gries’ collection of skeletal photographs are part of his book, “Evolution,” that seeks to make the case for evolutionary theory in a way that has not yet been captured so eloquently through the medium of photography. The project spanned 6 months and involved Gries shooting the photographs of over 250 skeletons at The Museum of Natural History in Paris, as well as 4 other locations in France. These monochrome photographs of skeletons were shot with strong directional light and appear almost sculptural in their presentation, asking viewers to consider the boundaries of scientific study and aesthetic event.
In the book, Gries’ photographs are accompanied with text written by scientist, documentarian, and professor emeritus at Paris’ Museum of Natural History, Dr. Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu. This text describes the skeletons, suggesting how to understand them in the context of history and the patterns of evolution. “New forms have evolved from old ones. Stubby amphibian feet have been transformed into hooves, bird wings and whale flippers. Yet many of the bones in those original limbs have not changed their relationship to the rest. They have just been stretched, flattened or reduced to vestigial knobs. Along the paths of evolution, the vertebrate skeleton has been transformed into similar forms many times over — aardvarks in Africa and anteaters in South America.” You can purchase and see more photographs at Éditions Xavier Barral. (via unknown editors, ny times, and the guardian )
Roger Hiorns‘ sculptures and installations are concerned with chemical processes and how these processes affect his materials and forms. I first encountered Hiorns’ work a few years ago when his installation, Seizure, was nominated for a Turner prize in 2009. For this installation, Hiorns filled an entire vacant & demolition-ready ex-London council estate flat with a copper sulphate solution. This created an abundance of bright blue crystals that filled every inch of the space. Visitors to the space had no choice but to crush some of the crystals as they walked through the transformed flat, further altering the construction of the space and his work. Hiorns uses the same copper sulphate solution to transform other objects, but also combines other seemingly disparate materials like ceramic pots with moving foam, metal with fire, steel with perfume, and even glass fiber with brain matter. A crucial component of Hiorns’ work stems from his compulsion to initiate the reaction, but then step back and become an objective viewer of his work as it transforms. Hiorns: “The works are successful if they are self-contained and need nothing else. They exist by their own language.”
Rachel Perry Welty reconstitutes supermarket labels and flyers, receipts, twist ties, fruit stickers, and many other products you’d find in the world of consumer junk to create obsessive photo installations.
LA-based artist Melissa Manfull‘s watercolors and drawings are all at once architectural and abstract. And, wouldn’t you know it, modern architecture and colorful, geometric art are two of my favorite things. Manfull has studied and practiced studio art both in the US and Canada, but she is now living and work in Los Angeles, California, USA. She has had a few solo exhibitions, and is currently represented by Taylor de Cordoba Gallery.