Beautiful/Decay has been a friend and supporter of artist and illustrator Zach Johnsen for many years. We’ve seen Zach go from humble beginnings to launching his first clothing line Tank Theory, to taking over the art world with his inventive smoke flare paintings. Johnsen’s art career is always in a state of progression so it’s no surprise to see his inventive style making a comeback in apparel with his latest collaboration with curated online marketplace RARE. Launching this week, Johnsen is releasing his Zenvironments brand which will be home to book bags, apparel, and accessories covered with his signature colorful artworks. When asked to speak on his work Johnsen states:
” Sketching is a big part of my day, both for fun and when starting a new project. I am constantly making lines and splashing watercolor. I wanted my initial Zenvironments capsule collection on RARE to showcase the fun and spontaneity of the creative process and make that process the focus of the garments. “
Expect to see many of Johnsen’s trademark techniques like his watercolor soaked “ Splash tee or the head exploding Absolute Citrus tee. For the ladies Johnson has created the Splash leggings and the Sketch leggings which transforms pages out of Johnson’s sketchbook into premium cut and sew leggings!
Evelyn Bencicova’s photography is stark and haunting, which could probably in part be attributed to the headless-ness of her subjects in most of her works. The colouring is sterile, and the figures’ body language imitates the stillness of their environment. Although each naked body touches at least one other, there is no sense of sexuality or pleasure. The bodies seem like one larger, unified organism, like some strange jellyfish or starfish. They splay themselves over surfaces, as if they’ve been washed up across the desk they rigidly lie on. They are compelling because although logically you realize you’re seeing a human body, they lack any recognizable aspects. It’s near impossible to feel empathy or understanding without facial features or visible imperfections or distinguishing character. It is especially with so many clones together. The series is an interesting experiment in identifying what defines our living human character.
I want to apologize in advance for making this comparison, but if I’m being completely honest, I’m reminded of the film Human Centipede. Of course, conceptually they are completely opposite, one being completely vile and horrific, the other pleasantly vacant. Still, if the Human Centipede were instead an experimental art film, maybe it would be the Human Starfish, and the film was about a multi-human entity that slowly explored an abandoned hospital or institution, these photos would be the stills. (Via Daily Metal)
This exhibition themed around sex will definitely separate the prudes from the promiscuous. Aptly titled “Sex Monsters”, 10 different artists explore the topics of gender bending, prostitution, fetishism and vice. A combination of photography, illustration, collage and assemblage, we get the chance to view some light erotica while questioning our accepted norms of sexuality.
Explicit drawings of sexual acts, photos of exposed bodies or advertisements for sexual encounters ask us to consider what is “slutty”, “indecent”, or “perverted”. More than just a simple display of modern sexuality, “Sex Monsters” is an exhibition showing something other than the normal heterosexual depictions of sex we are surrounded by. Photos of large amounts of condoms, strip clubs, and rows of newspaper listings shows the extent of the sex industry and how easily mundane these things can become in a world over-saturated with suggestive innuendo.
Encompassing genres like Sexploitation, Pornography, Soft-core, BDSM, this exhibition is intended on titillating and exciting us viewers. Aimed at the inner voyeur in us all, “Sex Monsters” will most definitely capture your attention. Unfortunately the exhibition has just closed at No Romance galleries, but you can still satisfy your curiosity by looking up the artists involved in the privacy of your own home…. Mike Krim, Pietro Cocco, Jennifer Calandra, Lorenzo Fariello, Amy Hood, Jonathan Leder, Sean Maung, Chelsea Nyegaard, Robert Farber and Kilroy Savage. (via Huffington Post)
Designer Noa Raviv‘s “Hard Copy” collection has been bending space-time as well as turning heads all over the fashion world. Raviv revs fashion up into high tech: She uses 3D printing technology to create the vectors, grids, and curved polygons that act as the centerpieces of her futuristic dresses.
At first glance, her collection looks like something Escher would come up with if he had gone into outer space — and learned to put the pedal to the metal on a sewing machine. Raviv’s 3D-printed dresses utilize negative space and evocative bold lines that abruptly end, a trajectory to nowhere. Some mark outlines around the stoic models, almost reminiscent of cut-out paper dolls.
If you were to describe Raviv’s designs as purely brainy, though, that wouldn’t be entirely correct either. Her pieces are mash-ups of the classical and the plugged-in modern, organic yet precisely calculated. The recurring hollow grid pattern seems to inevitably draw a comparison to wire frame mannequins, perhaps implying that the work is incomplete with the wearer, who — in this case — gazes archly from amidst blossoming toruses and geometric anemones.
According to Raviv, she wanted to explore “the tension between the real and the virtual, between 2D and 3D.” After having won the 2014 Finy Leitersdorf Prize for her creative efforts, it would seem that her experiment was certainly a triumph.
We normally think of the Playboy Bunnies as busty blondes with smiles on their faces. Taylor Marie Prendergast, however, shatters that stereotype in her pen and ink drawings that feature the women in a much different light. The models that she depicts, while still in “sexy” poses, aren’t glowing. Instead we see every brush stroke that’s paired with muddy, dirty-yellow hair and a blank expression on their faces. While Prendergast has handled the media well and demonstrates a variety of techniques, we can’t escape the fact that these women wouldn’t be the “Playboy type.” And, according the artist, that’s the point. From her statement:
I’m challenging the contemporary zeitgeist by incorporating historically loaded images and abstracted figurations. The juxtaposition of the glamorous and the repulsive are necessary tools in order to create this reaction in the audience. At first the piece entices the viewer with aesthetically pleasing elements, and as the viewers settles into the work they’re confronted with disturbing details.
While the ink is still wet, Prendergast loads the drawing with more pigment and allows it to bleed onto the paper. It creates a dripping effect that’s both beautiful but in the context of a figure, a little gruesome. This allows the artist to subvert popular culture, and as she explains, “They [the viewer] are invited to re-consider the cultural state of both themselves and humanity. As the viewer inhales the work, there is a subtle yet significant revolting shock.”
Portland painter Alexandra Becker-Black is talented beyond her years. Her paintings, soft-spoken and carrying the nearly absent weight of a shadow, illuminate the body in its pure and natural state. Becker-Black has a sophisticated approach in utilizing negative space to its full potential, creating an atmosphere that the body seems to emerge out of, in an ethereal, ghostly way; as if called forth. Perhaps due to her strong yoga practice, Becker-Black incorporates many yoga poses into her work, featuring women twisting their bodies elegantly in pose. A revolving theme of flight and birds is woven into most of her imagery; birds soaring overhead or perched on top of the figures. An allusion to freedom and flight; or pushing ones self to points of self actualization. Taken from Becker-Black’s website, this analysis by Shu-Ju Wang is an excellent summary of her work:
“Once recorded, she works with the still images but continues to purge from the already naked form, choosing only what she needs and adding only what is absolutely necessary. You see muscles tense and strain against gravity; you see figures in serene repose; you see energy suddenly released when a small flock of birds fly out of a woman’s opened hands. All of this is conjured up in front of your eyes even as a torso fades to gray or a leg disappears, creating work that is ethereal and luminously beautiful, haunting, evocative and complex.”
The way the tones and color melts away brings peace to the otherwise strained poses and moods that the figures themselves are experiencing. The implied motion is a driving force for the notion of change and evolution. Always moving forward, the beauty on the canvas in direct correlation to the act of living, breathing, being.
Jess Riva Cooper’s ceramic sculptures are as beautiful as they are disgusting. Her works have the viewer going back and forth between pleasure and revulsion, creating a welcome confusion to be examined. This juxtaposition of attractive and off-putting elements is not a new phenomenon in art – think Jessica Harrison’s ceramic women, and whose work we’ve featured on Beautiful/Decay – and although her artwork is also similarly violent, the aggression is expressed quite differently. Cooper’s busts are overtaken by plants, leaves, and sometimes bugs, which are often gagging or otherwise obstructing the female’s sensory capacities. The plants grow from the women’s heads, the leaves with an almost leech-like gesture extend out with determination.
It’s painful to see the women bound by nature in this way, also because, as a bust, they are without arms or hands to defend themselves. She renders the women with a great deal of skill, their expressions soft and subtle. In her artist statement she speaks about nature reclaiming its place and “a loss of control…as the parasitic entity subsumes the host” as well as her interest in sculpting the figure as a way to illustrate “physical and emotional vulnerability of the individual.” She addresses these themes plainly in her work, which is what makes it so successful and enjoyable.
Because Younger Looking Eyes Never Go Out Of Fashion
Maybe She’s Born With It
British artist Oliver Jones scrutinizes the media and its impact on self image for his newest exhibition titled, Love the Skin You’re In. If that phrase sounds familiar, that’s because it was an advertising slogan for Olay beauty products. Jones specifically draws from these industry campaigns and pairs them with photorealistic chalk-pastel drawings to demonstrates what these phrases do in shaping our ideals of beauty.
The large works feature zoomed-in portraits of faces as they’re doing something that’s directly tied to making themselves look better. We see an older woman wearing a facial mask while a doctor is examining the wrinkly skin around her eyes. A relatively young-looking man is about to undergo the knife as his forehead is marked with a plastic surgeon’s pen. While that’s more extreme, Jones reminds us that even something as simple as laying cucumbers over your eyes is a way of obtaining society’s defined “beauty.”
“Capturing both the translucency and fragility of the skin’s surface, Jones’ drawings scrutinize subtle variations, colorations and superficialities. The meticulous and time-consuming process by which the artist creates his work is in direct contrast to the immediacy of imagery captured in today’s society, and negates the rapid pace at which we are accustomed to consuming images.”