Artist Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen combines something that we’ve seen many, many times throughout the history of art – figure painting. But, he does it with a contemporary approach. His moody paintings feature partially obscured people as they rest beneath the water. They are just below the surface of the dark, deep pool, and the light from their bodies is all that’s visible.
According to Uldalen’s artist statement, his work, “…explores the dark sides of life, nihilism, existentialism, longing and loneliness, juxtaposed with fragile beauty. The atmosphere in his subject matter is often presented in a dream or limbo-like state, with elements of surrealism.” Although these figures are rendered realistically, they rest in a void with little additional visual information. We can’t be sure of where they are or what brought them there. And, for some, if they are dead or alive. It’s this open-ended narrative that gives drama to Uldalen’s paintings, and the hauntingly gorgeous images are the kind that will stay with you – even if you don’t want them to. (Via I Need a Guide)
German artist Felix Schramm likes to make sculptures that confuse you. He uses pieces of drywood, paint, steel frames and paint to recreate parts of architecture matching the space that they inhabit, but are very different than what you would expect. His highly formalized sculptures are a bit like architecture that has stopped pretending to hold itself up. They can be huge chunks of material that have been dumped in the room from a construction site by accident, or shoved through the wall like an art install that has gone bad. Resembling crumpled paper, or layers of torn posters on a lamp post, Schramm makes subtle comments about space, form, structure and the nature of materials with his work.
These group of photos are from a series called ‘Intersection’, and act exactly as that – they intersect, interrupt and divide the space like we wouldn’t expect. The sculptural fragments are reminders of the temporal spaces we inhabit – that architecture is only a fabrication and is easily destructible. These splinters of construction serve to disorientate the viewer. Schramm is able to warp our understanding of these mundane spaces purely by placing chunks of industrial material where they shouldn’t be.
The destroyed fragments of drywall wrapping themselves around existing columns and leaning butted up against pristine gallery walls are beautifully disturbing. Schramm’s work also features formalized ceramics, pieces made from plaster and paint, and smaller versions of ruined architecture. His installations act as a visual reminder of the grey area between chaos and order. These large scale replicas are both gently delicate and immensely strong. To see more contradictions and opposites at play against each other in Schramm’s work, go here.
DXV by American Standard is a landmark product line that represents the company’s storied history spanning 150 years. The collection spans four broad movements: Classic (1880 – 1920), Golden Era (1920 – 1950), Modern (1950 – 1990), and Contemporary (1990 – today). Each piece in the carefully curated collection harkens back to the era it was inspired by and combines it with modern sensibilities, technology and performance. Although each fixture is inspired by a distinct era, the entire collection has a dialogue and the ability to cross over and create a remix of eras in one space.
DXV’s Modern Collection spans some of the most inspiring eras in American architecture and industrial design. Mid Century Modern architecture and design of the 1950’s and 60’s is as celebrated today, as it was the first time around. You can see the the echoes of Mid-Century design in the pieces from DXV’s modern collection like the sleek lines of the Roycroft collection’s faucets and shower fixture. The Rem collection features Dutch-inspired, artistic curves merged with thoughtful utility- a marriage of form and function. Each piece in the Modern Collection is a study in form, function, and beauty.
In his paintings and installations, Georgia-born artist Travis Somerville references the inherent history of racism toward black individuals in Southern politics and culture. With motifs spanning Jim Crow to the Ku Klux Klan and Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr., Somerville tackles a wide range of race relations in American history. While most of the themes and narratives of the sculptures—which are often made of wood and typically feature drawn or painted portraits—are rooted heavily in the past, Somerville, a white male, uses historical relics and bygone references to challenge his audiences and invite them to question America’s current state.
In light of recent instances of race-related controversy in the news—namely, the murder of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri—the commentary presented through Somerville’s sculptures has become increasingly prevalent. Brown, a black teenager, was shot and killed by the white officer while unarmed, and his death has sparked civilian outrage and unrest both locally and throughout the country. While the depravity of racial profiling and its potentially fatal consequences has dominated the news since Brown’s death in August, Somerville addressed its historical reality three years prior, with Ballad of George Stinney 2011.
Comprised of two classroom chairs featuring a graphite portrait, tied together with rope, and hanging suggestively from the ceiling, the piece references the tragic tale of George Stinney, a fourteen-year old African American boy executed in 1944. Killed for a crime against a white individual for which, after his death, he was eventually deemed innocent, he remains an example of the systemic racism present in America.
Ultimately, while killed exactly seventy years prior to Brown and still unknown to many, Stinney, through Somerville’s art, is presented to the public as a reminder of America’s prejudice past—and, unfortunately, as a reflection of its present, too.
Be sure to check out his work at Senator Corey Booker‘s office in Newark, New Jersey for a group exhibition featuring Kara Walker and Mickalene Thomas (January 2015), at ARCOmadrid (February 2015), and at a solo booth at VOLTA NY (March 2015).
Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns, curated by Claire C. Carter, recently opened at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art(SMoCA), occupying the museum’s four exhibition spaces with intense focus. Encompassing digital media works, large scale photography and interactive installations, the exhibition questions what we know and what we think we know.
SMoCA writes: “Covert Operations: Investigating the Known Unknowns is the first major survey of a generation of artists working in the violent and uncertain decade following the 9/11 terrorist attacks to collect and reveal previously unreported or under-reported information. This group of international artists includes Ahmed Basiony, Thomas Demand, Hasan Elahi, Harun Farocki, Jenny Holzer, Trevor Paglen and Taryn Simon. They use legal procedures as well as traditional research methods and resources such as the Freedom of Information Act, government archives, field research and insider connections. The thirty-seven artworks included in Covert Operations employ the tools of democracy to bear witness to attacks on liberty and to embrace democratic ideals, open government and civil rights.
German conceptual artist Wolfgang Laib creates his installations from natural materials displayed in very unnatural ways. In “Pollen from Hazelnut,” Laib collected pollen from the area around his studio for over 23 years. In the gallery, he carefully sifted the rich yellow powder into a saturated rectangular field. He says,
“I wanted to have this very intense, concentrated experience … with the pollen. So, the meadow with flowers where I collect the pollen is something very different from how you see it here, a real concentrated experience without any distractions, nothing else.” (Source)
Traditionally, conceptual art is primarily concerned with ideas—aesthetics are mainly disregarded. Laib’s pollen fields are unusual in that they have a strong conceptual basis, yet they’re also lovely and striking. The geometric shapes, as large as 380 square feet, have been described as a “vast luminous field of color” and “a blanket of pure pigment.”
Interestingly it is in the collection of the pollen and the amassed pollen itself where Laib finds the most meaning. The sifting onto the floor is almost irrelevant to him. This exchange is from an interview in The Journal of Contemporary Art
Ottmann [interviewer]: Your pollen pieces are for sale. If a collector wants to own one how exactly does that work?
Laib: He buys three jars of pollen and it’s his choice of keeping it in the jar or to get rid of his furniture and spread it out on the floor.
Ottmann: Would you go to his home and do that?
Laib: Yes, but of course I would be even happier if he would do it himself.
Some critics of the work are concerned with Laib’s “waste” of natural materials. This is not a concern for Laib, who, although he works with natural materials, does not consider himself a naturalist. It’s important to remember that the pollen is gathered by hand over a long period of time, not mass harvested, denuding the environment in one obscene swoop. From concept to exhibition, every aspect of Laib’s work displays patience, precision, and peace.
Read more about Wolfgang Laib on PBS’s wonderful Art21 website and look out for his episode airing soon!
Los Angeles based photographer Amy Elkins recently won the 2014 Aperture Prize for her project Black Is The Day, Black Is The Night, which explores identity, time, and masculinity through correspondence, memorabilia, and composite landscapes, involving death row inmates. Elkins based this project on a number of long-term friendships she developed with men either serving lifetime sentences or on death row. As a pen pal to these inmates, Elkins explores an alternate sense of reality, reaching toward that of the 1,500 people currently on death row in the United States.
Drawing from these conversations and histories, she formulated composite photographs representative of what she learned of these men, and then created a method of aging and manipulating the photographs based on how much time had passed since they were first incarcerated. What comes from that are these gauzy, dreamy photographs that are clotted with layers but still delicate and vague, nearly transparent. The loose metaphor of memory, clarity, and vision are entangled in this series, heightened by photographs of the actual correspondence, memorabilia, and quotes from various letters.
The title of the project comes from a poem Elkins received from an inmate, “It spoke about that environment so well. The idea of being pulled away from anything. Experiencing no variance. Everything is the same; everything is dark. The poem is mind-blowing. Better for him to describe the situation than me.” (Excerpt from Source)
Carol Milne fires up small structural sculptures of knitting made entirely of glass. Though there’s no mistake that this is no ordinary yarn — unless it’s the crystalline yarn of some mystical other plane — it’s still incredible to see the amount of detail and the illusion of malleability.
The technique Milne uses involves wax, refractory molds, molten glass (at a startling 1,400 to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit), and a steady hand; once the initial process is done, Milne has to carefully free her work of art from its mold, piece by piece.
The sculptures are at once whimsical and delicate, poised as though mid-conversation during a most magical knitting club session. Her sculptures, on average never exceeding 12 inches, are also flavored heavily with surrealism; one sculpture pays homage to M.C. Escher who, no doubt, would have appreciated her clean, understated lines.
There are, too, some sociological undertones; Milne says in an artist’s statement:
“I see my knitted work as metaphor for social structure. Individual strands are weak and brittle on their own, but deceptively strong when bound together.” (via This Is Colossal)