Dan Colen has been dubbed in the past one of Warhol’s Children, a famous or notorious – depending on which critic you’re asking – New York post-pop prince. His earlier work was made of gum and simulation bird droppings, and although his artwork received heavy criticism for imitating or ridiculing artists and the high-art community, he continued to be successful and his career flourished. It seems there’s always a place for the unaffected artist-rock-star character type.
Recently, Colen has taken a more subdued approach to his practice. In light of the death of his good friend and artist contemporary Dash Snow, who died of an overdose in 2009, Colen has tried to curb his own lifestyle choices. This slow down is reflected in his artwork, namely his current exhibition at Gagosian: Miracle Paintings. Perhaps in the context of another artist, paintings of star streams and neon explosions would be a bold subject, but in comparison to his whoopee cushion installation Blowin in the wind, the medium is much more conventional and less provoking.
The feeling in the paintings is of excitement and solemnity. They’re easier to digest but still pack a visual punch. There’s life, death, and tranquility. It’s probably a pivotal moment in Colen’s career. Will he be able to remain successful without the contrarian stunts he is known for? It should also be considered that these paintings are much more pleasant to consume: Is he riding the comfort of his position in the New York art community, or pushing new personal boundaries? Personally I enjoy this series, but could also see how some of his fans might be disappointed in the relatively understated nature of the works.
Miracle Paintings is on at Gagosian until October 18th.
Using homegrown bacteria, photographer Seung-Hwan Oh warps and manipulates his photographs, surrendering his art to a higher ecological order. Oh, who also goes by the name Tonio Oh, explains that his intention is to “explore the impermanence of matter as well as the material limitations of photography.” It brings the artist’s studio into the laboratory, marvelously blending the organic and the artificial.
Oh’s website describes the process:
“As the microbes consume light-sensitive chemical over the course of months or years, the silver halides destabilize, obfuscating the legibility of foreground, background, and scale.”
It’s an interesting approach to photography that takes a normally still medium and adds a dimension of something active, live, and dynamic. When you view Oh’s photographs, the question is no longer the significance of what is depicted; instead, what catches your eye is the tension between what is shown and what is already lost. Though art is naturally created to be consumed, in this case, the art itself is the act of consumption, the parts of the photographs that have been literally eaten away by a relentless force of nature. The result, in Oh’s word, can be witnessed as something that is “entangled creation and destruction that inevitably is ephemeral”.
Sally Hewett is a UK-based embroider who gives new meaning to a sculptural approach to the craft. Instead of stitching subject matter like flowers, puppies, and generally happy scenes, she fills embroidery hoops with butts, breasts, and genatalia. The circular compositions rise from the surface and Hewett uses well-placed stitches to give form to these bulbous shapes. In addition, she’ll use dangling threads to simulate public hair, both trimmed and natural.
In her artist statement, Hewett states that she’s interested in ideas of beauty and the things that people do because of it. She writes:
Men and women almost ritualistically shave and remove hair from their bodies – beards, underarm hair, pubic hair, leg hair etc, whereas other hair – hair on the head, eyebrows, eyelashes – are valued and encouraged to flourish. But there is other hair which not everyone has. Sometimes this special hair seems to be reason to feel ashamed. A large number of women and men submit their bodies to extraordinary procedures in the name of convention or beauty – liposuction, implants, scarification, surgery, laser treatment, electrolysis etc.
Embroidery is often see as an innocuous craft, and part of the reason that Hewett works this way is to see how the medium affects how the content is seen. Is it more shocking, amusing, or beautiful simply because it’s portrayed with a needle and thread?
Corso Zundert, the famous flower parade, takes place every September in Zundert, a small town on the Belgian border. Known as the world’s largest flower parade, participating districts work arduously to out-do the other competitors in creating the most wild and unique float possible. There is no set theme for the parade, but competitors must adhere to two parameters: their floats must be made entirely of dahlia flowers and be smaller than 20 by 10 meters. Included here are photographs of floats from this year and past years as well. With the huge crowds surrounding the floats you can really see just how immense and outrageous these structures really are.
Starting in 1936, Corso Zundert is an ongoing tradition within the Netherlands. Using an unimaginable number of dahlias, people painstakingly construct and adorn these gigantic floats. The twenty floats, once completed, make their way through the city, everyone hoping to win first place. For the 2014 parade the prize went to a horse-themed float called Horsepower. What would your float look like?
Ukrainian illustrator Vasya Kolotusha has a great eye for pattern, texture and color. Taking inspiration from fashion blogs and models, she captures a playful essence in her sketches and animations. With a clean aesthetic, and a slight 80s twist, her images are cool, stylish, classic and quietly humorous. Illustrating for magazines, bands, and posters, Kolotusha’s lux style is a popular one.
Her latest experiments with adding neon light tube details to her sketches are a good match. They are reminiscent of 80s hairdressing signs, a piece of art from a time when sign writing was champion. She has a very simple yet effective technique of isolating her subjects and placing them inside a very graphic background. Her drawing style is so detailed and rich, they succeed in being intriguing, and translate well into animations.
Experimenting with the GIF format, Kolotusha is exploring the process of sketching – making visible to us viewers the preliminarily lines, the building up of color. We can almost see her hand adding background detail and extra flair and then continue on to edit everything we have seen her create. By exposing the whole drawing exercise, she captures our attention, rather than boring us with fussy detail.
Following on from her previous series of people wearing helmets, this series of illuminated girl portraits are a promising sign of things to come. This illustrator is one to watch!
Sabato Visconti is a photographer, visual artist, and digital puppeteer. He fine-tunes his art on an atomic level by using a number of techniques that manipulate code and scramble pixels into what is often surprising results. “Glitch art,” as the aesthetic is called, uses a palette of static, snow, and other shadowy artifacts to create art that is, despite its hi-tech nature, exceedingly organic.
The intense colors and bio-rhythmic patterns that emerge from Visconti’s glitched-out photographs are raw and still retain an emotional connection to their subjects. Some are more abstract, emerging like clouds of texture that seem by turns woven and crumpled and, when it gets particularly noisy, crunchy. Though it might be counterintuitive, it makes sense that glitch art is organic; after all, artifacts in old-school photographs and film footage have always occurred spontaneously. Now, artists are harnessing that force of microcosmic nature and using it creatively.
“You’re trying to find this really fine balance where something doesn’t break fully, but breaks just to the point that you can see it breaking,” Visconti explains. The tension between form and disintegration is palpable in his work; at times, it’s like staring into a digital void or a watching a snapshot of an identity crisis. He takes it one step further in a collection called, “Vertigo by Alfred Glitchcock,” which takes stills and remixes them into evocative visual mayhem.
Do androids dream of electric sheep? If they do, then this is what they see when they close their eyes.
Looking at these paintings out of context, you might not know that they are very small. In fact, sometimes these works are no larger than a coin or someone’s fingernail. Artist Lorraine Loots says that she creates “paintings for ants,” but you wouldn’t necessarily know it at first because of their intricate details. They have as much visual information as paintings 10 times their size.
Every day, Loots posts a new small picture to her Instagram, @lorranieloots. It’s always of an impossibly tiny subject and the caption features information about what they are and what we’re looking at. Loots realistically-rendered cars, landscapes, boots, birds, statues, and much more. The small scale is a nice twist on what we’ve seen before, and here the short explanation helps, too. “Paintings for ants” is an amusing thought, and one that’s entirely possible given the size.
Johann Bouche-Billon’s photo-series Photos of my Grandfather Dying is daring in its intimacy and complete honesty. When his grandfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Johann used his artwork in an attempt to wrap his head around what was going on. Of all his grandparents, he was closest with this grandfather, and had never experienced a death so close in his family. Although death is a reality of life, many if not all of us have difficulty accepting it, and Johann experienced anxiety attacks and confusion at the fact of his grandfather passing. The series provides an opportunity for healing and understanding, not only for Johann, but presumably anyone experience the death of a loved one. Originally, Johann was nervous that people would take offence at such a personal subject, but has said that the series has been received well.
His photo-series is extremely revealing, and it requires a great deal of bravery to show it to an audience. The photos show his grandfather at various stages of his deterioration, with loved ones or alone, but there are also a great deal of what you could call b-roll interspersed in between. The b-roll – consisting of photos of a food spread, a television, a painting of jesus, etc. – allows moments of contemplation or rest, for the viewer and probably for Johann himself. It makes the process seem more natural, instead of only presenting chronological photos of his grandfather, he lets you breath and wander through traces of his family and the scenes surrounding the events. The series itself is 107 photographs, and so the selection of images I’ve curated for this article is disproportionately weighted towards photographs of Johann’s grandfather. In the end, he is the subject of greatest importance, but I highly recommend checking out the entire series here, it’s extremely moving. (Via Vice)