Artist Carson Davis Brown wants to disrupt the big box stores (think Walmart or Target), or “places of mass” as he calls them. Not by making a lot of noise or leaving the aisles in total disarray, but by creating site-specific installations titled Mass that feature carefully-selected and thoughtfully-arranged products. He’ll pick one color and group those objects into totem-like structures that line the shelves, create an island in the shoe aisle, or block an important door. They form visually-pleasing works of art that are documented via photographs.
It’s no surprise that these installations were made without the permission of the store; Brown takes things from all around and somehow arranges the displays without getting stopped by staff. They are then left until they are inevitably disassembled.
There’s an inherent beauty of these works, but a guilty pleasure that comes from enjoying them. Brown’s disruptions highlight just how massive these warehouse-type stores really are – just look at the range of products. This “convenience” has put many “mom and pop” shops out of business. So, these works are a small way of fighting back. But, at the same time, having to disassemble these displays must be done by the lowest level, least-well paid employees – the sales staff.
Rustam Qbic specializes in street art that seems larger than life. His paintings are saturated with lush storybook colors and are defined by a playful sense of the absurd. Popping up in both expected and unexpected locales, his murals beautify not only the crumbling walls of derelict buildings but also that of apartment buildings.
There’s a stunning sense of synthesis between Qbic’s art and its surroundings. His art recalls the various motifs of house and home, nature, and man’s role. The juxtaposition of the familiar with the unexpected evokes a magical feeling of whimsy. A boy lounges in a boat full of houses while a man with a house for a head unleashes a flock of birds. Yet another boy rides a fish under lily pad clouds — and another man with a house for a head fishes peacefully in a creek. The theme plays over and over again.
Qbic’s work almost seems to suggest that we are inextricable from our environment. Like a dream folding in on itself, it’s impossible to tell where our influence ends and where nature begins. (via This Is Colossal)
Rajni Perera’s work is a wondrous fusion of different mythologies, cultures and viewpoints. Her wildly colored drawings combine Hindu imagery, pre-historic animal beasts, galaxy prints produced by the Hubble Deep Field Telescope and the figures of exotic women. She works with techniques and symbols from Indian miniaturist art, Blaxploitation and pop culture references, forming her very own mythology.
Born in Sri Lanka, Perera is drawing on her own immigrant background and her transient state moving between Eastern and Western cultures to illustrate a unique standpoint that it both specific and universal. Her work is an exploration of what it means to be cross cultural in today’s world, and is her trying to dissect those layers in a way she, and us, can understand. A big subject in her work is the representation of female sexuality, and also the presentation of Asian and South Asian cultures in a predominately male Caucasian world. But she says perhaps it isn’t that straight forward.
I don’t know if I really want to make statements about racial prejudice, at least maybe I feel I’ve moved past that in my work. More like I try to make images questioning the projected, or fabricated sexuality behind circulated images (be it on screen, print or the web) of the colored female body in pop culture or otherwise, i.e. ethnic pornography. (Source)
We’ve all seen them- they’re these hyper-stereotypical web images of African girls in beads and wood, Japanese girls in kimonos, and Indian girls in saris; all very subservient, all very saleable; this is my point. There’s something for sale there. (Source)
For Perera the thing that is a common thread connecting Eastern and Western cultures is Kitsch: The idea of culture being re-appropriated by, or passed between, one another. Hollywood and Bollywood are essentially two heads of the same beast, and Perera certainly draws that beast spectacularly.
Hedi Xandt is a multidisciplinary creative who has a formal graphic design education, but doesn’t see himself limited to this field – his work takes the form of fine art paintings and sculptures. Xandt’s three-dimensional pieces are visually powerful and conceptually compelling. They feature busts and skulls composed of gold-plated brass, polymer, distressed black finish, and marble. The gold acts as an accent that adds an element of terror to the work, such as giant spikes or dripping blood.
The skull and bust are symbols of both art and humanity, and the aggressive nature of Xandt’s sculptures makes it appear as if he is rejecting these classical notions. The sleek and stylish “killings” coincide with his philosophy about creative spirit. Instead of mastering one thing and sticking to it forever, Xandt favors a more fluid approach, writing:
I think that the main and most important aspects of my work are creativity and concept. Being permanently on the experimental side of thinking and creating, I seek to add to my skills with every piece I begin. Learning-By-Doing, this awfully overused term, applies to me just as well as Doing-By-Learning. The unison of knowledge and skill provides me with inspiration and a broad foundation to be used as a starting point for any kind of project. (Via Inkult)
Photographer Gail Albert Halaban constructs an intimate view of strangers’ lives, shot completely through windows, in her series Paris Views. Taken from a blatantly voyeuristic vantage point, the photos show intimate glances into normal peoples’ lives. It is of note that these shots were meticulously directed; Halaban worked with the people photographed to create them. Paris Views, which is a continuation of a previous series, Out My Window, shifts the focal point from a peek into New Yorker’s habitats to that of Parisians. Shot entirely in Paris, Halaban distills the intimate interiors of both people and places, lives seen in the off moments.
The introduction to her new book, which was published by Aperture, summarizes the magic of her work:
“The photographs in Paris Views explore the conventions and tensions of urban lifestyles, the blurring between reality and fantasy, feelings of isolation in the city and the intimacies of home and daily life. In these meticulously directed, window-framed versions of reality, Halaban allows the viewer to create his or her own fictions about the characters, activities and interiors illuminated within. This invitation to imagine renders the characters and settings both personal and mysterious.”
David Cristobal creates portraits of people with skin like wood texture. The wood knots and grain form to the shapes of the different faces and create these kind of human tree spirits. I’m reminded of some kind of modern day lord of the rings tree incarnations. It’s impressive how well Cristobal can combine the texture of the wood and relates it to the shape of the face.
The portrait I’m most drawn to is where there is a large hole in the wood where the eyes would be. In the majority of the portraits, the face is left wholly intact and the wood is more of a veneer. In this portrait, it seems to engage more with the form of the face, and you imagine it more as a sculptural element. This happens again with the women who is missing almost the entire left half of her face, but it’s most successful with the eye-less man. Perhaps this is because eyes are the most revealing element of a face, and the gap reveals the inner depths of the head, whereas with the woman it seems more as if a piece of her face has simply been removed.
The woman with large dark eyes whose head ends like an open tree stump is also exceptionally compelling. Obviously because of her eyes, but I believe also because once again an essential element of a complete head, this time the hair, is gone. Excluding an entire element seems preferable to me than excluding an arbitrary portion of the face. The portraits are a lovely combination of nature and humanity, especially when Cristobal finds good balance between the two. (Via Scene 360)
Photographer Donna J. Wan’s ongoing series “Death Wooed Us” is gorgeous, unsettling, and deeply empathetic. “In 2011 after the birth of my daughter I developed a severe case of postpartum depression and considered taking my own life,” she writes in the description of the work, all photos taken in “suicide destinations”—places where people have taken their lives.
“Using research gathered from media reports, I found several locations in the Bay Area and travelled to them. I walked along the paths taken by these people before they ended their lives. Most of these photographs were taken from bridges, including the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most well-known ‘suicide destinations,’ but also lesser-known beaches and overlooks. I purposely photographed from the perspective of looking up at the sky, down at the water or crags, or straight ahead but far away, thinking that these views might have resembled the ones seen by others moments before dying. Many of my images have a hazy and elusive quality, which I believe reflects the clouded state of mind of the suicidal.”
Suicide is such a sensitive subject. There are many people—probably the majority of people—who cannot imagine losing the will to live. Whether because of religious beliefs, or ties to family and friends, or just the innate need to stay alive, these people believe that they would never end their own lives. Then there are others, who have lived with pain and grief and the loss of hope. Those who, because of sickness of body or brain, struggle through every day. Once you have crossed this line, between life at all costs and death as a merciful end, the world never looks the same to you again. In Wan’s series, her experience is what makes the photos haunting and peaceful. She has looked into the cracks of her own soul, and that has enabled her to walk in the footsteps of those without hope and capture their last sights with kindness. The last view of a suicidal person could be macabre, an intrusion into someone else’s pain. These photos offer beauty, the acknowledgement of despair, and the desire for peace.
“There are some who may think that my photographs romanticize these places of death. I can understand that point of view, although that is not my intention. Death is not beautiful – in fact, jumping from a bridge 200 feet high is a very painful and violent way to die. Yet the sublimity of these places continues to lure people to them. I do not intend for my work to glorify the allure of these places. Instead, I hope that it may offer a glimpse into the minds of those who may have thought that dying by these beautiful places was a peaceful way to end their suffering.”
In Il Capo (The Chief), Italian filmmaker Yuri Ancarani exquisitely documents the unexpectedly captivating and largely unexplored process of marble extraction.
Set in an Alpine quarry, Il Capo presents the powerful dynamic between the boss and his workers, focusing predominantly on the wordlessness of their dialogue. Using seemingly enigmatic gestures and hand signals reminiscent of a conductor directing his orchestra, the boss silently and gracefully guides two lumbering bulldozers as they claw into the hillside and extract colossal wedges of marble. Juxtaposing the boss’ fluid movement with that of the bumbling machinery, Ancarani successfully conveys the astounding and paradoxical nature of the process: “how he can move gigantic marble blocks, but his own movements are light.”
In addition to the visual strategies employed in Il Capo, Ancarani has a unique approach to sound. Void of conversation, narration, and soundtrack, the short film offers only the sounds of the heavy machinery and the toppling marble—placing all emphasis on the rawness of the process, and conveying, above all else, the artistic nature intrinsic to a seemingly industrial task. (Via Nowness)