Michael Willis‘ visual language doesn’t consist of any single point of reference. Rather, it is a syncretic blend of multiple styles and influences – a sort of hodgepodge of 60s psychedelia, 80s computer graphics, and a modern view of pop culture. Imagery sometimes includes figures that are in the American cultural unconscious – Frank from Blue Velvet, for example, makes an appearance in a drawing. But more often than not this outlook on pop culture, especially looking back towards the 60s and 70s, is expressed through the utilization of stock imagery of anonymous, yet clearly old, photographs of people from days of yore.
The Mao Bride (Red Guard Blue holding the Little Red Book), 2010
The Torero Bride With A Black Suit Of Lights, remembering Picasso, 2006
While we can probably all imagine what typical bridal photography looks like (maybe you’ve even been apart of it), artist Kimiko Yoshida turns this martial norm on its head. Her series Something Blue is named for the antiquated 19th century axiom that a bride should have “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue” on her wedding day. The portraits feature Yoshida in various costumes that are tinged with the hue, but not how you’d expect. They look like high-fashion photographs that feature elaborate headdresses, mirrors, and even a black-light suit.
These subversive images are a form of role playing for the artist as she disconnects herself through them. The M.I.A. Gallery in Seattle, who’s currently displaying Yoshida’s work, describes it as:
…she [Yoshida] borrows an identity, tells a new story and plunges the viewer into a ceremony, where the bride keeps appearing and disappearing unexpectedly. The artist recaptures time, transfigures herself into queens, muses, warriors, and uses the shadow to illuminate the mystery and hybrid nature her ceremonial attires.
Using monochromatic, as the gallery observed, has the effect of disappearance. Yoshida is here but she’s not, showing us that when we’re painted in only one color, we become a symbol rather than person.
Will Cotton’s new show at Mary Boone brings together the artists signature imagery of cotton candy and frosting with pop singer Katy Perry. This seems like nothing more than a cheap gimmick to sell a few paintings but I’m sure Mr.Cotton isn’t losing much sleep over my opinions of his hugely successful career. I wish that there was a moment of tension in these works or that they weren’t just pretty paintings of pretty things but for me the work falls flat. Each masterfully painted work looks like another precious thing to hang over your designer couch, and that’s not a good thing. Read the below press release and see additional images from Cotton’s Katy Perry paintings and decide for yourself. Is this interesting art or just extravagant illustrations of a mediocre pop star that will soon fade away?
“Conjuring his signature land of plentiful sweets, for the touchstone of this group of new works the Artist depicts Katy Perry (Cotton served as Artistic Director for her 2010 California Gurls music video) as the reluctant queen of an imagined Utopia. In Crown, she stands before a palisade of pastel cakes, holding the headpiece as if wary of its obligations and consequences, realizing that a reign of opulence and profusion will inevitably conclude in decline and decay.
Cotton evokes the memory of a time before this awareness in Candy Forest, an idyllic landscape that merits bright color but is instead painted in the monochromatic palette of an old sepia photograph. Yet even in that distant past this Utopia harbored an underside – a truth underscored in the paintings Landfill and Trash Pile. Here, doughnuts, pastry, and tarts are nothing but layers in a garbage heap, their allure diminished in a realm of infinite riches.”
Colombian painter Jesus Leguizamo combines realistic elements of portraiture with abstract, creating surreal pieces that sing with emotion. His paintings look almost like oil-on-canvas renditions of glitch art, his subjets interrupted with splotches of colors and smears of paint.
Leguizamo’s paintings feel like intimate peeks into someone’s emotional state of mind, and his expressive brushstrokes seem to convey a raw sense of confusion or mental tumult. There’s a dynamism to his paintings, as though they’re a motion capture camera snapping just one frame of his subject. According to Saatchi Art, Leguizamo explores human fragility with “his depictions of people [that] erases and blurs that which defines the human being – the face. ” (via I Need a Guide)
Diggin’ on these illustrative ink and watercolor works by James Ulmer. His repetitious, almost vintage-looking characters roll on and on across the page in a flood of really earnest, straight-up human appeal.
According to the artist’s website, we can look forward to seeing his work in a group exhibition at Grass Hut in Portland very soon.
Working in her studio in Sausalito, CA, sculptor Sophia Collier uses a combination of acrylic block and algebraic function (with a little help from a CNC router), to carve sculptures of wind. The clear, floating relief works look like freeze-frame slices of the water’s surface. She spends a great deal of time replicating the effects that both wind and light create on a large body of water using custom rendering software and sound recordings of the wind. Collier carefully mimics its movements and reactions with a series of digital “brushes” she has created, working to develop unique strings of information to carve out each piece. The sound waves move and fluctuate in the digital space just as they do in the physical realm—and the result is a crystallized portrait of the wind, giving the visual effect of sunlit water. She outlines her entire process here.
"Lake Intervention", 2007/2008. Sound installation/ 30" x 24" Digital C-Print. Collaboration with Samuel Ekwurtzel.
Tiffany Sum’s work explores the im/possibility of intimacy between body and technology. Through interactivity in participatory situations, impressions alternate between the visceral and palpable, the fleeting and intangible. The responsive environment generates a constantly changing social formation among the audience. The process of internalizing these impressions into personally meaningful enactments can be voluntary — as in the gallery, or involuntary — as in the public place.