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The Fascinating And Majestic World Of Japanese Samurai Armor

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If you ever been intrigued by the world of Samurai, now’s your chance to learn more about the life and culture of these ancient warriors and the artisans that made their decorative armor. In Los Angeles until February 1st, one of the most comprehensive collections of headgear, masks, weapons and even horse trappings used by high ranking Japanese warriors from the 14th – 19th centuries in on display at LACMA. Samurai: Japanese Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection is a fine testament to the artistry and functionality of Japanese battle art. Described by the curator Robert T. Singer as more than just a one dimensional cultural display, he says:

My story is not about the samurai. My story is more about the art, the idea that a samurai, a warrior class, would be so interested in such fantastic symbols and mixing together Buddhism, Shinto, and things which would not mix together outside this culture. (Source)

He also talks about his fascination with helmets in particular. To Singer they are a perfect example of the blend of utilitarian decorative art. They include symbols ranging from mythical figures to abstract motifs. The helmets include things like demon birds and eggplants, and all parts are made from precious materials like bear fur, iron, gold, silver, copper, bronze, and silk. Singer explains the complexity of the symbols a little further:

Animals, Buddhism, Shinto, they’re all mixed up. We really don’t understand why. This is performance, ceremonial, processional armor, and they’re showing off, they’re trying to be, sort of, outside the normal world. (Source)

If you are lucky enough to be in Los Angeles, you should definitely take the time to see these cultural artifacts, or you can purchase the catalog here.

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Mickey Artworld’s Works Disturb The Psyche By Embodying Fear And Uncertainty

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Mickey Artworld is a self-taught French artist who works in SFX makeup, prop design, paint, and sculpture to create highly imaginative characters in the styles of steampunk, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. His project Fragile, featured here, hails from this latter category; emerging out of a twisted mass of what appears to be rock or clay is a hideous creature, what Mickey identifies as a “tortured soul.” Featureless except for a raw, lipless mouth and snarling teeth, the alien-being writhes blindly about, howling in pain (or in some other indescribable, unidentifiable emotion). As it crawls and twists over the rocky mound, its skin appears to crack and crumble off like sand, giving it a corpselike appearance and adding to its expression of living hell. To create this frighteningly realistic piece, Mickey made the mask out of latex and the body a combination of water-based clay and makeup.

Mickey explains that the source of inspiration for Fragile was Silent Hill, the Japanese survival horror video game series known for its creepy, slow-burning aesthetics that disturb the psyche; instead of gore for shock value, imagine eerie, unfamiliar sounds in a dark room and grotesque monsters with strange, mutilated bodies — the types of illogical and horrifying things you would see in a nightmare. Fragile has the same emotional and psychological effects, producing fear through confusion and doubt. In confronting spectators with Fragile‘s macabre scene, Mickey hopes to transport them into “another world, a world of beauty and darkness,” where monsters like this one access the deepest recesses of our subconscious, eliciting complex feelings of both fascination and fear.

Check out Mickey’s website and Facebook page for a stunning collection of his beautiful and stylistically varied work. The photography for Fragile was done by the talented Warped Galerie, whose work will appeal strongly to anyone interested in horror, fantasy, and dark beauty. The model is San Keaton.

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Phil Ferguson Crochets Delectable Foods To Wear On Your Head

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It’s no secret that Melbourne-based artist Phil Ferguson is fond of food. After all, giant slices of crocheted pizza, cracked eggs, bacon, hot dogs, and much more are strapped onto the top or side of his head. They take the form of decorative hats and costumes that frame the wearer’s face, and their larger-than-life scale makes them a delight. Ferguson posts as @chiliphilly on Instagram where he has 14.2K fans (at the time of writing).

The artist is originally from Perth in Western Australia, and he started crocheting the food and sharing on Instagram as a way to connect with other artists in the area. It all began with a burger that was inspired by Tuck Shop Take Away, his place of work. “From that point onward I thought about how to do food hats,” he told Daily Mail. “[Food] has been the most accessible thing people can relate to and it will stay that way until I’m bored.

Depending on the design, Ferguson is able to complete a piece in two to three days. The artist describes himself as a self-taught crocheter (he watched instructional YouTube videos) who has never learnt to read patterns. Even so, he’s crafted 24 delectable creations so far. (Via Daily Mail and Milk Made)

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Ronit Baranga’s Creepy And Strangely Arousing Ceramic Tableware Covered With Fingers And Mouths

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Ronit Baranga is an Israeli artist known for her bizarre sculptural works, which include a series of ceramic tablewares hybridized with human body parts: open mouths, protruding tongues, and gouging fingers. These strange, anatomical additions are incredibly detailed, so much so you can make out the the glistening taste buds and knuckle creases. While these pieces are both creepy and attention-grabbing, from a critical standpoint, their meaning may seem a bit elusive; our reactions to them are initially visceral. Speaking to this, Baranga writes:

“I would like that anyone who sees my work feels something – what they feel is not relevant to me, as long as they feel. I hope that the emerging feelings will cause the viewers to think about the ideas behind my work… The combination of ceramic cups with ceramic fingers represent an idea in which the still creates a will of its own, enabling a cup to decide whether to stay or leave the situation it is in.” (Source)

Baranga’s designs, then, grant inanimate objects a form of agency: the plates desire to eat, the finger-walking teacups seek to wander, and their self-awareness challenges the way we think about and interact with such objects. What they also explore is the way eros is incorporated into unexpected things. The parted lips and probing fingers — both of which are erogenous body parts used in sexual exploration — elicit erotic associations. However, there is also an element of revulsion: imagine a stranger’s hands digging through your food, recognize that the hungry mouths emerging on your plate are the receptacles for the unglamorous digestive process. Baranga’s works may arouse you, but they will also suppress your appetite.

Check out Baranga’s website for more of her fascinating sculptural works. (Via Juxtapoz)

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Tony Orrico’s Drawings Test The Limits Of Physical Movement

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Since 2009, Tony Orrico has performed his Penwald drawings. Combining elements found in dance, theater and performance art, it explores repetitive movement for long periods of time, bringing drawing’s motion into peril with human physicality. The idea originates in finding a point when an act becomes more than just motor skills and crosses over into the creative process. In Tony’s case, this leaves an aesthetic mark on physical existence in the form of an abstract drawing.

After graduating with an MFA in Choreography from the University of Iowa, Tony joined Shen Wei and Trisha Brown Dance companies. As a principle, he performed in major cities around the globe, including Sydney Opera House. Both troupes known for an avant garde approach ensured that he was never far away from a serious art practice. When he was ready, this enabled him to use the experience he learned as a dancer and combine it with his passion for drawing. One of his first Penwald performances at Postmasters Gallery, NY in 2009, would set the stage for everything that followed. From there, he received an opportunity to perform at The National Academy Of Sciences in Washington DC, and  was soon taking his “Penwald” series to venues worldwide. He was one of the few selected to reappropriate performances from Marina Ambramovic’s retrospective, “The Artist is present” at New York’s Museum Of Modern Art, an experience he was honored to have.

His newest project, CARBON, further investigates the relationship between material, body and movement.  Again, testing the limits of physical, mental and creative capacity, Tony sleeps in a box of graphite broken off throughout the course of a day, from Mexican pottery bowls. The material is used as a metaphor for life and death. A few recent highlights include performances at The Metz-Pompidou, New Museum, BAM, and solo Exhibits at PPOW Gallery NY, MUAC Mexico and Shoshanna Wayne Gallery Los Angeles.

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Elena Helfrecht´s Striking Poetic Photographs Of Chilling Horror Scenes

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We have all been haunted by something worrying or had nightmares we just can´t forget. And so has German photographer Elena Helfrecht. She uses her camera as a therapeutic device to overcome her worries, fears and nightmares. After shooting many dark and dramatic photographs exploring the depths of human emotions, Helbrecht has quite the oeuvre of dramatic images. She works with many different narratives, creating a mini story in each frame. Last week we featured her past series Little Stories, this time are focusing on her collection called Nightmares. A bunch of disturbing snapshots, each photograph represents something that has been frightening to Helbrecht at some point.

Scenes of long creepy fingers reaching out of cupboards and from around doors, bodies smeared in blood or wrapped in plastic have such an impact, they will haunt you nearly as much as an actual nightmare. Helbrecht tells us a bit more about her inspiration:

“Nightmares developed from my very beginnings as a photographer and continues to grow. The series shows exactly what it describes: my very own nightmares. The series is a mix of early visions which I used to have as a child (a great fear were creatures coming from my closet and taking me with them for example) and abstract dark emotions and anxieties. By visualizing these thoughts, feelings and visions I get rid of them. Whenever I am inspired and have a picture in my mind I get my camera and pull it out of my head. By visualizing your inner demons you somehow remove their power. It gets less terryfing; you somehow disclose the darkness you previously feared.”

You would think from someone who spends a lot of time expressing horrific and challenging thoughts, that her work would have a heavy severity to it, but the end result is quite different – they are something of a melancholic, sentimental memory, albeit ones often filled with blood.

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Graphic Designer Viktor Hertz Redesigns Annoying Progress Bars Into Clever Pop-Culture References

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The hilariously witty graphic designer Viktor Hertz takes the ever-annoying, monotonous progress bar and turns it into an image full of funny graphics that cleverly reference things like The Walking Dead, Star Wars, and existential questions. Each “progress bar” is turned into similarly shaped objects such as a chocolate bar and a cigarette. Even the buttons are now comical pop-culture references and decisions like “use the force” or “join the dark side.”  Instead of just the decision of clicking “okay” or “cancel,” we now have interesting choices to make. Some of the buttons are not unlike video games, such as The Walking Dead progress bar asking us if we want to use a knife or a headshot to ward off the impending crowd of zombies. Other buttons are possible real life decisions such as whether or not to quit smoking. Nevertheless, the shapes and phrases Hertz offers us in these unusual graphics are much more appealing than the irritating and disruptive real life progress bars.

Being a talented graphic designer who has created many posters and logos, this fun side project takes Hertz’s love of icons and symbols and turns them into silly pictograms. These amusing images remind me of what someone might doodle in school when they are bored, just to entertain themselves and get through the day. If only computers really did use these graphics instead of the normal, mundane “progress bars” and other delays that cause such a nuisance in our everyday lives.

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Crystal Wagner’s Paper Sculptures Explore The Realm Between Familiar And Strange

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Encased in white-framed boxes are Crystal Wagner’s intricate cut paper sculptures. Like specimens meant for studying, parts of textured tentacles and honeycomb-esque patterns wrap around themselves as well as non-representational wavy shapes. Wagner’s work is meticulous, and each scalloped edge has its own slightly-curled edge. It’s reminiscent of a dragon or a reptile, but not one that we’ve ever seen before. The vibrant colors feature jewel-toned gradients that push her sculptures from quasi-reality into full-blown fantasy.

These works first made their appearance at the Hashimoto Contemporary gallery in San Francisco in 2014. Her exhibition was titled Synesthesia, and the intention was to explore the psychological realm between the familiar and strange. The gallery writes, “…combining screen printing, cut paper and various dollar store items, Wagner meticulously assembles her sculptures with a sense of organic growth. Allowing her materials to build upon themselves, layer by layer, each structure swells into a mass of movement, as if grown from the soil of another planet.”

If you’re a fan of Wagner’s work, check out her large-scale, site specific installations.

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