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Matthew Christopher Documents Forgotten Spaces In Abandoned America

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Ten years ago Philadelphia photographer Matthew Christopher began a photo series attempting to document the decline of the state hospital system. Today his evocative and beautiful collection, “Abandoned America”, includes images of asylums, institutions, military, hospitals/health care, prisons, schools, power plants, factories, mills, quarries, hotels, transportation, theaters, houses, churches, and graveyards. The photos are beautifully composed and shot and are totally captivating in their emptiness.

“There is an undeniably artistic element to decayed sites, and an immense number of social, theological, and philosophical questions they pose. Abandoned America’s aim encompasses not only the historical and photographic cataloging of such sites, but also on a larger scale a eulogy for the lost ways of life they represent, a statement of their emotional, spiritual, and metaphoric relevance to our everyday lives, and a sense of the visceral experience of entering a parallel universe of silence, rust, and peeling paint.”

The pictures of abandoned spaces seem to want to create a narrative. They ask questions: What is the difference between a place abandoned temporarily and permanently? Is it a matter of chance, of luck? When you walk out the door, are you certain that you’re coming back? What sort of artifacts does a person leave? There is a poignancy to these spaces, a haunted voyeurism, a solemn quality to their emptiness. What lives were being lived here, and why were they interrupted?

Christoper’s book, Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences, will be released on December 7th. He also posts updates on his Facebook page.

“There is something magical and mysterious about spaces that are no longer in use, where nature and time and man’s presence have combined to create something absolutely unique,” says Christopher. “I hope that people reading my book can experience that sense of the transcendental and sublime that I did when I photographed these forgotten places. This book is a chance to examine why we are losing so many sites that are critical to our identity and culture.”

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Anton Vill’s Grotesque Pen Drawings Are Beautifully Exquisite

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The ink drawings of Anton Vill are exquisite and small – about the size of your average fork. Vill is highly skilled in wielding a pen, and he makes tiny marks so fine that they appear as a pencil drawing or even as an engraving from the 17th century. But, looking closely at the subject matter, you discover that they are wholly contemporary, like something out of a nightmare.

We see babies piled in a shopping cart, a grotesque separation of someone’s head, and countless people that are wrapped up in the long hair of a Cousin It-type character. Vill’s work is quietly visceral and bizarre, and it doesn’t immediately strike you as strange; this creates a greater impact when you study his drawings. The longer that you look, the more you’ll discover and get a glimpse into the artist’s imagination. (Via Faith is Torment)

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Artist Zaps 15,000 Volts Of Electricity Into film To Create Beautiful Abstractions

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Brooklyn electronic media artist Phillip Stearns is exhibiting a new series of some pretty wild photography, and all produced without the use of a camera. Applying different household materials (bleach, vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, salt, rubbing alcohol) before and after exposure to electrical currents, Stearns was able to produce some electrifying images. Applying 15,000 volts of alternating current directly to the surface of instant film, the electricity arced, ignited, and sparked, leaving beautiful patterns in the emulsion.

Stearns has been exploring his understanding of what a digital or photographic image is, through many different approaches. He sees images, sound and video not only as signals, or a way or producing something, but as raw materials to use and to exploit. In the Evident Material exhibition, he puts this theory into practice and explores the relationship between the human eye and the camera.

The sentiment that the camera is an extension of the eye is taken to an extreme. When looking through the Fujifilm FP-100c instant color film datasheets, the similarities between the layering of materials in the film and the layering of cells in the retinal is striking. Perhaps it is because the development of such film technologies parallels an evolving understanding of how the eye sees. (Source)

The similarities don’t end there. Stearns commented that the sparks he was experimenting with on the film stock, function in a similar way as the electric impulses in our eyes when processing images.

I find it curious and exhilarating that the impressions left behind after developing these extreme exposures so perfectly resemble networks of blood vessels in the retina. (Source)

Evident Material exhibition opened on November 15 at Transfer Gallery in New York and will continue until December 13. (Via The Creators Project)

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Choi Xooang’s Exquisitely Nightmarish Human Sculptures

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Korean artist Choi Xooang creates sculptures that you’d see in your nightmares. The grotesque artworks are made out of resin and shocking in the brutal ways that they manipulate the human body. Severed limbs, skin corsets, and people-made backpacks are all featured in these pale, hyperreal mutant characters. Although they feature exquisite craftsmanship (the life-like details are stunning), it’s hard to get away from subject matter.

Galerie Albert Benamou – Véronique Maxé, who represent the artist, write about Choi’s work, stating the ideas behind his work:

His existentialist creatures, in the torments of their flesh and their contradictions, become our double dumb and clueless. The artist says that emotions are the only things given to a man or woman apart from their social status in the functioning of a capitalist society. Choi Xooang not only gives us his own feelings but attempts to retrieve a collective soul, a chart of all the sufferings and joys experienced by everyone.

We see these types of feelings represented; while there is pain, there is also sensuality between the characters, and even some eroticism shown throughout the strange hybrid people. With this, Choi communicates that pain and pleasure can walk a thin line. (Via Hi Fructose)

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The Beautiful/Decay Shop Grand Reopening!

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Beautiful/Decay is thrilled to announce the grand reopening of the B/D Shop! At first look you’ll notice a bolder, brighter layout and big crisp photos. Our books, posters, and back issues of the zine are – of course – still available for purchase. In addition, we are very excited to now start releasing limited edition prints and other products on a regular basis.

Our plan is to do multiple releases every month, beginning this month. Each release will be an opportunity to own ( and support ) an artist’s work that has moved and mesmerized you. A generous portion of the sales goes right back to each of the artists we work with.

Stay tuned for more information and announcements, and sign up for the mailing list to get updates on new print releases.

Now, take a few moments and check out the new Beautiful/Decay Shop!

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Kendal Murray’s Incredibly Miniature Nature Scenes Built On Top Of Household Objects

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Kendal Murray makes miniature sculptures inventing various scenes with miniature characters, but whose stories are life sized. Scenes of families at the beach or sailing toy sailboats, and friends exploring a perilous landscape of wood clothes pegs are some of Murray’s creations. Her invented landscapes built atop compact mirrors, bowls, glass jars and teapots, and clutch purses exist somewhere between their own world and our own. Because they’re built on regular, albeit mildly nostalgic objects, the viewer is reminded of their existence in our own world, but they also seem to live in their own contained reality, ending at the limits of the object.

Some scenes are more absurd than others, like a woman standing proudly naked in front of a fully clothes man beside a fence. Another that’s particularly funny is one of a woman being chased by a swan while a man (who was presumably accompanying her) wanders through high reeds. Other scenes are more mundane, like a couple flossing and bathing in a bathroom together.

According to Ignant, the artist sees the miniature sculptures as an opportunity to explore identity. She says that dreams are where we’re able to experiment with different identities, and her sculptures are a manifestation of that possibility. (Via Ignant)

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Drew Conrad’s Haunting Installations Of Buildings In Disrepair

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New York artist Drew Conrad sources materials to build these eerie and beautifully disturbing structures that carry their mood with them. Using salvaged materials to complete these haunting renditions of exteriors and interiors long since passed, he constructs a narrative of loss and despair, or even of just the forgotten. These planks of wood articulate their own meaning of history and the viewer can’t help but get lost in the mood that surrounds one of Conrad’s shows.

“Conrad’s architectural sculptures and hanging assemblages in Backwater Blues seem to be the somber ruins of a once vital place. Constructed out of raw material – distressed by hand with rust, debris, stain, and sediment – Conrad creates dwellings and remnants of domestic spaces that appear corroded by time. The fractured interiors and exteriors become sites for identity making, serving as metaphors for psychological reflection. Reoccurring themes of legends underpinned by myth and assumed cultural pairings suggest a questioning of collective memory in contemporary times.”(Excerpt from Source)

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Brad Troemel Collaborates With Ants To Create Colorful Abstract Installation

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Multihued translucent Plexiglas rectangles hang from the ceiling in Brad Troemel’s latest installation LIVE/WORK. They’re pleasingly abstract, reminiscent of sunsets and seashores, but look closer: each is a self-contained ant universe. The gel is edible for the ants, a commercial variant of NASA’s soil replacement, and as they tunnel and work they create patterns and movement in the art.

“Each team of ants is working on behalf of three not-for-profit organizations. The striped colors of the homes represent the colors of the not-for-profits’ logos. These organizations range from the Earth Liberation Front to Edward Snowden’s Legal Defense Fund to Planned Parenthood. At the end of this exhibition, each home’s piled up refuse from tunneling is weighed as a proxy for which team of ants did the most work digging. Whichever team’s displaced gel weighs the most wins the prize for their three organizations, splitting 10% of the proceeds from this exhibition three ways.”

The press release for the show is concerned mostly with the ants. “One must wonder – when will ant labor evolve to incorporate collaborative just-in-time tunnel building strategies, or even Fordist production lines?” It asks. “Are disruptive innovations even possible species-wide if made within isolated habitats? These are just some of the questions this generation of ants faces.” The questions are somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but they raise other issues. If Troemel is relying on the ants to produce constantly changing works of art, what happens to his installation if they stop working? What if they die? The three large blank checks hang on the wall opposite the ants, underlining the financial impetus of the show. Living insects+art=profit. It’s an unusual equation, but a surprisingly lovely one. (Via Lost at E Minor)

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