Seattle based artist Casey Weldon’s newest series of work is a bit unsettling. He’s painted a series of cats, each with four eyes. While the premise sounds simple enough, the product is more jarring than one might expect. Upon first viewing the paintings the animals don’t appear as mutated creatures or monstrous as you might expect. Rather, the paintings seem to be making it difficult to focus. As humans we have a sensitive awareness of faces, eyes being a primary reference point. Perhaps because of this the two sets of eyes don’t seem as much like a defect in the cat as a defect in our ability to focus on the painting. Also, Weldon’s choice of exclusively depicting cats clearly references the internet. The animal’s unexpected rise to the top of internet meme-dom, nearly makes cat’s a symbol of internet culture itself. The gallery statement for his current exhibit at Spoke Art further expounds on this by saying:
“Ranging from internal commentary on the state of contemporary culture to a satirical analysis of the internet in general, Weldon has deftly created a body of new acrylic paintings that humor and appall. Through his thematic commonality of quadruple eyed animals, Weldon intentionally disorients the viewing experience by juxtaposing a subject that is impulsively attractive yet eerily disturbing. With this subtle manipulation the viewer finds themselves drawn towards these subjects, yet can’t quite focus on them, akin in many ways to the eye fatigue experienced by countless hours on the internet, often fueled by the mindless addictive nature of social media. The choice of cats specifically as his subject matter continue on Weldon’s commentary of the internet/social media. The immense popularity of cat culture and viral cat memes is unavoidable in this day and age, a point made all too apparent by the pairing of Weldon’s exhibition with a Lil Bub art show just two doors down this month at Spoke Art.” (via supersonic electronic)
French artist Geneviève Santerre‘s body of work is, well, about the body. Explicitly erotic, her work is shocking and provocative. It speaks to central concerns about women’s bodies and sexuality in general. From human-animal-creature genital hybrid sculptures to bronze cast vaginas to a pair of discharge-soaked underwear hand stitched with the words “shit happens” to a tangled and suspended speculum to a performance piece wherein she wears a Niqab adorned with silicon vaginal molds, Santerre is by no means subtle. Her work is direct and compelling, challenging the viewer with something powerfully resonant yet potentially disturbing. Santerre pushes boundaries, asking us to reflect on recontextualized sexual images.
Santerre explains in her statement, “Belonging to a generation that is supposedly open sexually, I wonder why this jubilation is considered taboo. Despite some improvements since the feminist movement in the 1960’s, contemporary society remains patriarchal and regards women as objects, while frowning upon sexually open women.
Based in the history of Pop Art, but with intentions wholly different, Rachel Hecker’s paintings and sculptures are blown up representations of those everyday items we think of (if we think of them at all) as disposable. Handwritten lists, post-it notes, calendar scribbles, fortune cookie papers, receipts and pricing stickers are just a few of the items Hecker transforms into acrylic on canvas paintings.
Far more personal than the subject matter of the Pop artists, Hecker carefully recreates by hand each piece of ephemera. Of these works she says:
“They contain vestiges of our intentions and our deeds, and are inadvertent diaries and forensic evidence of how we exist in the world. These scraps of paper detritus anticipate or record a range of experience from the mundane to the exalted, from dull repetition to fancy, and from stasis to expectancy.”
Taylor Rice of Local Natives. Photo by Barry Belkin
Nick Ewing of Local Natives. Photo by Barry Belkin
Friday the 13th was nothing but lucky for LA’s Local Natives as they headlined the Greek Theatre a couple of weeks ago. The band gave their hometown fans a hard hitting, emotional show full of heartfelt thanks and crushing songs. Not that long ago you could have seen them at any number of clubs in Echo Park or Silverlake, but to see them perform at one of their largest headlining hometown shows to date was something I could not miss. With their latest album, “Hummingbird” released at the beginning of the year on Frenchkiss Records, the band played their hearts out to the enthusiastic crowd of well wishers.
Opening with, “Breakers” from their new record, the band jammed through songs both new and old including, “Wide Eyes“, ”You & I, “Camera Talk”, and “Airplanes” and continued to thank the audience of fans, family, and friends up until their final song of the night. With that familiar thumping drum beat and the band bathed in red light, the crowd clapped and jumped along to one of the most intense versions of, “Sun Hands” I’ve ever seen them perform.
Local Natives will be appearing both weekends of the Austin City Limits Music Festival on October 4th and 11th as well some shows in between so check out there tour dates here to see if they’re playing in or around your area before they head off to Europe. Also, check out their new video for their song, “Ceilings” which was directed by their bass player, Nick Ewing.
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, a Brooklyn-based painter and illustrator, responds to street harassment by creating dialogues through art in public places. Stop Telling Women To Smile, a series of portraits depict strong willed women responding to catcalls or inappropriate comments.
This series, which has been fostering solid conversations since it’s 2012 NY inception, is simple in its assertion, yet complex in the response. Madison Carlson of Feminspire addresses some male reactions the work has evoked, one of which involved a penis being drawn on the woman’s face. The New York Times additionally notes: “Andrés Carlos, 50, stood by the freshly pasted posters on Tompkins Avenue. ‘A woman likes nothing more than being told she is beautiful,’ he said. ‘For me, this is ridiculous.’”
But, Fazlalizadeh and Carlson disagree with Carlos. This is not about beauty, but control. Carlson asserts, “Yelling or whistling at a woman on the street like she’s a dog who will come when you call, or telling a woman to ‘Smile. It can’t be that bad. You’d be so much prettier if you smiled,’ dehumanizes her. It reduces her purpose to pleasing the male gaze. The posters, answering that reduction with confrontation, are meant to show street harassers that they are not entitled to women’s smiles or any other part of them.”
The work of the street artist known as 108 is much like his pseudonym: simple and mysterious. Often large black masses of abstract street art inhabit walls. Devoid of most or any detail, these masses are frequently punctuated by bursts of color. In a way the colorful abstractions feel like offshoots or biological growths on the larger black masses. There is a larger flow to his murals that are somehow familiar. The shapes, the way interact with their surfaces, and the way in interacts with itself feels organic. 108 explains this idea in a 2006 interview saying:
“Usually I work in public spaces, you know, and the background is the most important thing. I must find a good shapes for that place, usually I prefer old walls and abandoned places, and my “thing” grow by it self, as a tree or moss did, but I know nature do that really better than me! It’s very hard for me to work on a blank white surface… in that situations I must find a good inspiration elsewhere, maybe in another work I did before or working with a good friend with good ideas.”
Other times his abstract murals almost hint at an iconography, symbols, or recognizable shapes. Like much abstraction there is a lot of room for interpretation. Still, he goes on to say:
“Most of my works come from my unconscious and are totally irrational. You can see the abstract, soft and gloomy shapes… My works are also very symbolic. The same old example of the wheel, I found it in my unconscious, it was a big fixation for me… usually I have drawn it with 8 rays inside… In fact it was the sun wheel, one of the most important symbol in ancient Indoeuropean cultures (you can find it in a lot of Indian and Celtic stuff). This is just one example.”
The engineering and design studio Bot & Dolly created the video Box. In it a simple flat surface is visually transformed in unbelievable ways. Projection mapping has been especially popular lately because of its extreme versatility among other things. For projection mapping a computer basically maps a surface, one often considered too irregular for traditional projection. The software’s images are then projected on precise locations on the surface. In this way projects can appear to interact with the surface or produce the illusion of depth. For the video Bot & Dolly seem to push the potential of projection mapping. Flat surfaces are attached to large robotics, thus the projection not only interacts with the nontraditional surface but also its movement. It does this so effectively that at times its difficult to remember the surface is indeed flat. Amazingly, all of the effects are in camera – that is, no special effects were applied after recording. After watching the video, its interesting to think about the potential use of such technology. Bot & Dolly go on to speak about the project saying:
“Box explores the synthesis of real and digital space through projection-mapping on moving surfaces. The short film documents a live performance, captured entirely in camera. Bot & Dolly produced this work to serve as both an artistic statement and technical demonstration. It is the culmination of multiple technologies, including large scale robotics, projection mapping, and software engineering. We believe this methodology has tremendous potential to radically transform theatrical presentations, and define new genres of expression.”
AlunaGeorge performing at the El Rey Theatre, September 12, 2013. Photo by Barry Belkin.
Aluna Francis and George Reid, better known as AlunaGeorge have one of my favorite records of the year. I’ll even forgive them for covering Montell Jordan‘s 90′s hit, “This Is How We Do It” even though I couldn’t help but sing along when they played it during their LA debut at the El Rey Theatre a couple of weeks ago.
Playing songs from their debut album, “Body Music” released on Vagrant Records this past July including my favorites, “You know You Like It”, “Attracting Flies“, and “Best Be Believing”. They also got the crowd really riled up when they played their collaboration with Disclosure, “White Noise” which the crowd acknowledged by jumping up and down through the whole song. Ending their set with, “Your Drums, Your Love“, the lights came on almost immediately signaling no encore even though most of the crowd was begging for more.
You can catch the band performing in Australia starting this Saturday at the Listen Out festival taking place in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth before heading back home for a full scale European tour that will have them on the road until the end of November. Check out their latest video for their infectious song, “You Know You Like It” and definitely try to catch one of their upcoming shows.