Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, famous for his paintings of small children and animals, has a new solo exhibition in Hong Kong called Life is Only One. It recently opened at the Asia Society, and the title of the show comes from Nara’s artwork of the same name. This painting features a child holding a skull and contemplating existence. Conceptually, this isn’t foreign territory for Nara. In an interview with Asia Society, he explains, “When I was a child, the word “life” itself, of course, was a foreign concept. After turning 50, however, and with the deaths of people close to me and with the recent earthquake, I started to think about life more realistically — the limits of life, and the importance of what one can accomplish during that time.”
The children seen in Nara’s works represent what’s inside his head. He describes to Asia Society:
The children were not something I had sought or thought out, but in trying to capture what was in front of my eyes, they appeared as I tried to capture what was formless in my mind. I think, therefore, that my world expands upon my past experiences and memories, and the speaker for my own mind appears as a child. But really, if anything, those children appeared very naturally on the picture plane.
Life is Only One is on view until July 26 of this year. (Via Hi Fructose)
Internationally renowned artist Theo Mercier has created an incredible monster of a sculpture made entirely of spaghetti! This textural, monumental piece is around 10 feet tall, and that’s when it is sitting—which is all the time. The spaghetti monster sits upon a small chair that is way too small for him as he stairs sadly down at the ground. Titled Le Solitaire, or, “The Loner,” this creature looks isolated and alone in a world where he is the only spaghetti-creature. Although the colossal sculpture seems very melancholy, Mercier’s work tend to not be without a bit of humor. A monster made of spaghetti is an absurd and silly creation, so why is it so glum? Maybe it is afraid that us humans will eat his spaghetti!
Mercier’s work is often large and textural, as Le Solitaire’s tactile spaghetti-skin begs to be touched. The noodles form an endless series of lines bending and forming across the body of the creature. They imitate scribbles of continuous lines doodled on a piece of paper. A self-taught artist, Mercier is an expert at inducing strong emotions with such a bizarre and surreal sculpture. We cannot help to feel sorry for this dripping, sorrowful beast. Its wide, striking eyes that stare directly at the viewer are also in other works for Mercier’s. His other installations include funny creatures made by adding these same bright eyes onto cars, piles of hay, and even smoke seeping out from a fireplace. This French artist’s unusual and mysterious sculptures give inanimate objects such emotion and personality that steal our hearts and earn our love.
Subtle and steady gestures provide the backbone to Tom Haney’s movable figures. He creates characters using a craft called ‘automata’ which replicates human movement using mechanical devices. Each is constructed out of wooden found objects which eventually turn into characters pulled from novels like Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. Haney’s narrative mostly finds its way through small towns of the 40′s and 50′s back to a time when rebellion meant getting drunk off whiskey on a Friday night or flying a kite made out of an American flag. It stays put in a simpler time when things were mostly done by hand and craft meant something. This also manifests in the facial features of the artist’s figures which are painted with deadpan humor recalling Norman Rockwell. This dynamic paired with slight movement focuses your attention on a specific moment which sets it apart from ordinary puppets. It spawns a type of poetry created from gesture. Haney chooses to slow down time and focus on little things that enhance life through his wooden cast.
The videos explaining Haney’s process are fascinating because the work is highly detailed and irregular. Usually when you think of puppets you envision uniformity and system whereas when you see Haney’s craftsmanship it transforms into a lost art form. He discloses intricate carving methods needed to shape and make the pieces function. All the nuts and bolts making it work take on a Frankenstein sensibility which adds to the appeal. However, the narratives are pure Americana. Some of his more in depth projects have focused on the underbelly of a small town carnival leading to a mysterious underground and a vignette about discovering first love in the forest. Both are set to contemporary music.
A strange new campaign has started in St Pauli, the party district of Hamburg in Germany. In order to deter drunken party goers who have a habit of peeing on walls, doorsteps, playgrounds and in alley ways, local activists have coated the surfaces in a substance that will change where visitors go to the toilet. This wonder substance is a superhydrophobic coating which causes any substance to hit it to rebound and splash back more than it normally would. Some areas are marked with warning signs, some are not. Most importantly they don’t mean to be unfriendly toward tourists, it acts more as a strong message.
Such a simple, novel idea thought up by a community group will have such a wide reaching impact, and will make a whole lot of local businesses happier, cleaner and a lot less stinky.
The group also plans to roll out a program in which people using the restroom at bars can get a stamp on a special card that can be redeemed for a shot on the house after the sixth restroom trip. One thing is for certain: if you pee in public in St. Pauli, “urine” trouble. (Source)
The campaign is a tongue-in-cheek approach to a serious issue for the area. And proves that St Pauli can defend itself. So far the idea has made waves around the internet and perhaps will encourage other areas to do the same. (Via Bored Panda)
Photographer Robert Landau captured stunning rock ‘n’ roll billboards in the late ’60s and ’70s. Primarily inspired by album art, the billboards were massive monuments that took on a life of their own. Reigning over the Sunset Strip, which was at the time the lifeblood of the music industry, the billboards became more than just advertisements. They were physical embodiments of a vibrant scene populated by colorful rock stars and tantalizing music idols.
In an interview with Collectors Weekly, Landau says, “There was a whole scene going on along the Strip, but it was really focused on rock ’n’ roll. The billboards captured all that energy, and also some of the excess of money and drugs.” The billboards themselves were anything but flat; at the time, they were hand painted using specific techniques to ensure they could be read from a distance.
Around the time billboards roamed the streets was also the height of some true album art artistry. “It was a joint process,” Landau says of the intersection of the two, “… in most cases, the musicians had already commissioned amazing artwork for their albums.” The tricky part was then translating the album art from a square sleeve to the more traditional rectangular frame of a billboard. The solution was to add an extra dimension to it, enabling figures and objects to burst out of the picture and become almost 3D in effect. Billboard artists got creative, lighting up 3D lampshades and creating silhouettes that seemed to loom like titans.
“It wasn’t about getting somebody to a cash register to buy something,” Landau says, commenting on the uniqueness of these everyday artworks. “It was about creating an image, and about a trust between the artist and the record companies.”
Even as people bemoan the death of the album, at least there are photos like Landau’s that remind us of a time when music was larger than life.
Micaela Lattanzio creates works of art that go beyond the traditional forms of photography. This collection, called “Frammentazioni,” shatters photos into bits and pieces, enabling Lattanzio to play with space and texture. Her mosaic-esque pieces contain a sort of kinetic energy, suggesting form and movement in a subtle way.
Like other types of art that use human features, it’s hard not to assign emotion to Lattanzio’s work. She literally uses human images as jig saw pieces, evoking a sort of psychological depth that could be read as anxious or even playful.
Some of Lattanzio’s works are use the various pieces of photographs as pixels, rearranging them around each other but maintaining some semblance of the original shape. Other pieces lace together long stripes, looking like the result of two inkjet printers communing (via Hi-Fructose)
David Emitt Adams beautifully captures the landscape of the Southwest on the surface of discarded tin cans along with other debris he finds in the desert. Growing up in Yuma, Arizona, he is no stranger to the desert and the objects inhabiting it. Adams explains that deserts, naturally being so barren, are often used as a dumping site for garbage. This is where he finds all of his materials, with some tin cans being up to four decades old. He combines classic and iconic Southwest imagery with the reality of the state of the land today. Although the present day desert still holds immense and vast beauty, it is not without the remnants of urban sprawl left behind.
Throughout history, the West has long been photographed and documented due to its breathtaking and often unbelievable, natural landscapes. Adams not only pays homage to this tradition, but to its traditional processes as well. Inspired by the history of photography, the process he uses was one of the first methods of photography invented. Adams chosen method of photography is not your everyday digital photograph. He uses a labor intensive process invented in the mid-19th century called “wet-plate collodion.” This complicated process not only takes time, but an impressive amount of skill. Adams’ technical talents are only matched by the creativity of his body of work. Each tin can’s rich, red patina is still intact as they bend and twist around their lids, which hold the delicate image of the desert. This series, Conversations with History, is just one of several series in which Adams uses this traditional method of photography to express his artistic vision.
Chinese artist Ye Hongxing tries to bridge the gap between the ideas of East and West; traditional and contemporary; spirituality and commercialization. She plays these different ideas off of each other in her new work called Prajñāpāramitā. This new piece is a reinterpretation of the traditional art form of a Mandala, but made from mass-produced plastic toys, beads and stickers. The title Prajñāpāramitā actually means the Buddhist concept of Perfection of (Transcendent) Wisdom, and is a fitting cynical commentary on just how bizarre our worlds have become, filled with shopping and consuming commodities and objects.
Hongxing’s stickers are otherwise seen as disposable and ephemeral objects—a comment on the disposable nature of contemporary culture. The sheer volume of the stickers echoes the overload of information that we are presented with on a daily basis. (Source)
Based in Beijing, Hongxing is frequently reacting to the ever-changing culture surrounding her, and the pace of which it happens. Using opposing traditions and systems to comment on each other, she draws our attention to our own actions. By methodically placing thousands of plastic, secular, pop-cultural, commercial objects down in a systemic fashion to build a spiritual motif, she brings two very different practices together in a head on collision. We are reminded of the Buddist traditions of meditation and repetition, but instead of being geared toward serenity and peace, this time it is in the name of glitz, glamor and garishness.
Hongxing’s other projects include fusing Chinese and Western artistic practices together – creating luscious oil paintings filled with decorative Chinese porcelain patterns; making marble sculptures of kitschy blow up animal balloons; and layering hundreds of glittery stickers on each other to form surreal, OTT interpretations of modern day life. (Via The Creator’s Project)