The exact color of that Ginger Ale can is important to artist Sara Cwynar. Her work revolves around the careful curation of both fantastic and banal objects. She arranges and later photographs these assemblages, which range from color studies to chaotic interpretations of old works of art.
You might be familiar with 16th and 17th century Dutch Flower paintings. If not, then they are exactly as they sound; Still life paintings of flower arrangements. They are colorful and realistically rendered pictures. Their realism is almost boring, until you find out that these paintings were meant to brighten up the interior of homes during the winter months when real flowers were dead. In her Flat Death series, Cwynar took old reproduced pictures of these flowers and overtop placed it with the likes of cheap plastic toys, fake leaves, rolls of tape, and dish gloves. A sophisticated painting is recreated out of junk, creating a cognitive dissonance.
Color Studies is another still life series. Instead of parodying of an already existing work, Cwynar gathers objects of a similar color. They include old marching band uniforms, encyclopedias, lemons, old slide film, cigarettes, and so much more. Photographs feel really dated, like a teenager’s room in the 1970’s. This is Cwynar’s intention. In an interview with Lavalette, she states:
I thought a lot about the aesthetic patterns you see in these pictures – a particular lighting, a slickness, a high level of detail. I’m also trying to recycle and subvert conventions of product and commercial photography by using elements that aren’t normally associated with these genres – objects that are now discarded or forgotten, intentional scuffing, not glossy at all.
It’s easy to be intrigued by Cwynar’s work. She utilizes conventional objects and through assemblage, allows us to experience them in a new way.
Some of my photographer friends hate on digitally manipulated images but how can you when photographers like Koen Demuynck makes such breathtakingly powerful images with a bit of help from our old pal Mr. Computer? Each image is more amazing than the next with piles of elephants, crazy chimney sweepers, and Santa throwing a very naughty new years party. All of these and more after the jump!
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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Artist Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels converts reclaimed wood into unimaginable installations that will leave you lost in their endless, repeating triangles. She builds these spaces in settings as diverse as a convent, an abandoned secret society hall, and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. The reclaimed wood used to build these impressively complex structures, mostly lath wood, is from unused building materials that Fels finds behind old plaster walls. This Brooklyn based artist says she has always been interested in building mechanics and how things work, which explains why her process exemplifies this curiosity as she takes pieces of the whole to create an entirely new and intricate structure.
Her process starts by creating a blueprint of the future piece, which is an artwork in itself. She then begins to use the found wood to create structures that contain abstracted patterns. Using mostly triangles, each of Fels’s pyramid shaped installations are both organic and geometric. The receding triangles and repetitive lines pull you in and demand your attention. Each triangle in her installations seems to build off of itself, as it spreads and grows across each wall like moss. The structures beautifully transform and morph its surroundings into an entirely different environment that the viewer can often enter. The artist develops her inspiration from vast landscape and cathedral ceilings, both of which are apparent as her immense artwork adds a dramatic vastness to the space it inhabits. These cave-like installations are a wonderful way to make stunning use of salvaged material!
Here are more freshly drawn covers for Book 1: Supernaturalism for your viewing pleasure! As you’ve read, Kyle Thomas has been crankin’ them out, and we thought we’d let our mascot Ziggy model a few (or twenty-six)!
Kostis Fokas is a rare photographer who possesses the innate ability to both create and capture personifications of the provocative in our human form. Challenging and sexually-charged, the work is visually reminiscent of fashion photography, but pulls inspiration equally from painterly compositions by using the body as a metaphor for sexuality, potency, and humanity. In a conversation with Beautiful/Decay, the London-based, Greek photographer explains, “Through my photos I wish to present a new take on the human body and explore its infinite capabilities. The use of quirky, and sometimes hidden faces communicates exactly that. Unlike photography that seeks to reveal the feelings of the objects portrayed through the use of faces and expressions, I shift my focus on the complete freedom pertained to the image of a human body. Stripped from its clothes, I leave it fully exposed and completely surrendered.”
With faces hidden and bodies often stripped bare, the human form becomes a landscape of tension, fully exploring the paradox of submission. A balding man running a brush over his head becomes a metaphor for self-conscious impotence and existential awareness, while a naked woman hovering over a cactus represents a more immediate (and less philosophical) danger. In Fokas’ work we realize that submission is often related to acceptance, mirrored by the artist stating, “Submissiveness often conveys surrender to something greater and more powerful than us.” This duality becomes both a metaphor for the nature of photographic direction, as well as for life, as the human experience is compressed into simultaneously simple and complicated gestures arranged by the photographer with willing participants, and captured on film.
When asked if the work’s sometimes daring exploration of sexual themes and sexuality is ever misinterpreted, or even offensive, Kostas diplomatically responds, “My images aspire to touch on some of these issues, among others, and definitely raise many questions but it is ultimately left up to each individual viewer to decide and reach his own conclusions.”
Cuba’s 3,570 mile coastline, nestled in the Caribbean Ocean has seen everything from glamorous vacation resorts to the horrors of revolution. But as Cuban artist, Yoan Capote shows us in his Isla (Island) series, the heart of Cuba is her relationship to the water.
Capote’s collection of canvases illustrate the beauty and turbulence of the sea. He says,
“the sea is an obsession for any island country .. it represents the seductiveness of dreams but at the same time danger and isolation.”
In the Isla series, Capote captures that feeling by utilizing fishhooks to create texture and density on his large canvases. At first glance, the works seem to be made of heavy oil but upon closer inspection you see that each wave in his ocean scape is an individual fishhook that has been painstakingly painted and nailed into place by Capote and his team. Layer after layer of fishhooks creates a physically dangerous work. If you aren’t careful, it could stab you. Capote says, “I wanted to use thousands of fishhooks to create a surface that would be almost tangible to the viewer upon their approach.” Accomplished.
The result of this intense work is not only the undulating motion of the sea, but it is a comment on Cuba’s situation, more generally. The fishhooks are a symbol of Cuba’s fishing trade and they illustrate its perilous borders but through this work Capote is also able to point to economic issues, emigration, and political isolation thus evoking a shared sense of uncertainty about the future of the country.
Craig Taylor’s fantastic macro photographs transport us into the world of insects showing us every hair, tiny pieces of pollen, water drops, dozens of eyeballs, and all sorts of other detail that we can’t see with the naked eye. Read about Craig’s process and what led him to this series here.
Today’s article is presented by the glossy tri-fold brochure printing experts, Next Day Flyers.