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If Raul Gonzalez had a soundtrack to accompany his drawings, it would be a mash up of old Disney movie themes, Death Metal and Mariachi music. It’s a bizarre mix of badass and cute, (cute like a two-year old giving you the finger) all on color splotched and stained pages that make you feel like you’re getting a secret look into Gonzalez’s personal sketch book. You can imagine the free-association process that went into each image, each element building, as if at some point Gonzalez thinks to himself, ‘it would be rad if the chicken was coughing up a human tooth,’ or ‘this guy should have a beat up severed head in one hand and a flaming cigarette in the other.’ And what may look like stains or scribbles reveal themselves to be crucial compositional devices that contribute to the overall success of each illustration. Best of all is the playful freedom: while the characters are often beheaded, impaled, beaten, or in some state of peril, there is always an aspect of humor and joy. Even if it’s the kind of joy some of us got from frying an ant hill with a magnifying glass as kids. Gonzalez brings to mind some of most underappreciated cartoons to hit the glowing screens in American homes, shows like Ren & Stimpy, Beevis and Butthead, and even Itchy & Scratchy on The Simpsons. Shows that are so awesomely gross and hilariously violent they pull at the heart strings of those of us who liked to poke dead things with a stick.
Portland, Oregon based artist Storm Tharp’s fluid figurative paintings mix ornate patterning with a delicate “happy accidents” style of brush work that make his striking figures seem to be in motion yet completely still. This playfulness of medium creates an unsettling state in the work making each piece psychological portraits of figures who could be real or completely out of the artists imagination.
Jeremy Laffon‘s series of installations are entirely constructed from chewing gum. He painstakingly builds each of his installations with this unusual material. The precision and care he gives to his work is contrasted by the material itself. Chewing gum isn’t particularly strong or sturdy – the lattice work structure buckling under its own weight, or tiled gum easily giving way underfoot. Chewing gum is also associated with casualness, rude to chew in formal settings, spit out when finished with: a pleasant surprise in an often stuffy art world.
Like stunning x-rays from an alien world, Bruce Riley‘s resin paintings seem to be lit from within. His playful shapes and psychedelic colors blossom in suspended animation, humming with as much electrical energy as any other multicellular organism.
Riley describes his process as intuitive and organic, saying, “I’m not really trying to define any ideas, I’m just letting it flow.” Watching him work is certainly hypnotizing as fluorescent greens and ozone blues blossom and blend into each other. The paintings can be appreciated from afar as well as up close, each brimming with meditative detail.
“You’re always investigating,” Riley says of his process. “It’s not about an end result. [You’re] trying to use techniques that you remember but also looking for things you’ve never seen before.”
Part of the beauty of Riley’s work is that it can be appreciated on various levels. Open to interpretation, one could call it the secret life of lava lamps . It could also be described with a narrative, a foray into extraterrestrial forensics. Or you could just take it as it is: the stream of conscious of a man who certainly knows his way around a paint brush. (via This Is Colossal)
Stuart Haygarth constructs beautiful sculptures out of recycled and found materials. He typically finds large quantities of one object, like eyeglasses, plastic bottles, eyeglass arms, mirrors, or picture frames, and builds large chandeliers or other functional installation sculpture work. Some of his work that is composed of seemingly random objects has been arranged to highlight the myriad of colors and forms that encompass his sculptures. Haygarth’s ability to recontextualize the mundane into the magical is uncanny. In an interview with Design Museum he says, “I think there is a certain ‘power’ in a collection of specific objects. A large grouping of a carefully chosen object – be it by colour or form – gives the object new meaning and significance.”
Artist Jeffrey Gibson blends art histories and cultures with seeming effortlessness. His work isn’t the pastiche of past decades, a witty pairing of disparate influences. Rather, Gibson’s work appears more to be rooted in contemporary remix culture. Portions of modern and contemporary art styles inhabit art pieces along traditional Native American artwork with an inclusiveness that’s refreshing. Interestingly, the gallery statement of his latest exhibit at Shoshana Wayne Gallery notes:
“This mash-up of visual and cultural references comes from the artist’s Choctaw and Cherokee heritage, moving frequently during his childhood—to Germany, Korea and the East Coast of the U.S. , and his early exposure to rave and club cultures of the 1980s and 1990s. Gibson cites that the sense of inclusiveness and acceptance, the celebratory melding of subcultures and an idealistic promise of unity all galvanized by the DJ’s power to literally move an audience to dance to his beat, continues to serve as a primary inspiration for his inter-disciplinary practice.”
Still, the way in which the Native American styling especially stands out makes the Native American artists largley left out from the discourse of modern art history conspicuous. The gallery statement continues about this relationship: “The paintings are done on elk rawhide stretched over wood panels. Gibson arrived at this format after years of looking at painting techniques found in various non-Western art histories, of paintings on shields, drums and parfleche containers (animal hides wrapped around varying goods). The paintings also read within a modern and contemporary art context whereas artists from the 1950s and 1960s were looking towards traditions such as Native American and Oceanic art to create ideals of spirituality, animism and purity. One can infer artistic influences from Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, and Donald Judd.”
It’s in this way that Gibson inserts himself and his heritage into art history: by this smart mixing and remixing, and an artist’s eye at the past.
Japanese artist Junko Mizuno’s candy-colored works draw us into a world full of dark and erotic food fetishes. Meant as a metaphor the female sexual appetite and power, Mizuno’s illustrations feature women enjoying eggs, bacon, noodles, and more. Her maximalist style weaves geometric shapes, naked creatures, and luscious patterns into each composition. Coupled with the strong presence of a female character, it results in artwork that’s simultaneously grotesque, cute, playful, and alluring.
Mizuno’s inspiration comes from a range of historical and cultural influences, as well as traditions found in both Eastern and Western worlds. Fairy tales and the works of Aubrey Beardsley and Eric Stanton are also visible. Narwhal Contemporary writes about her paintings, stating, “One reoccurring image is that of the iconic multi-armed goddess cloaked in symbols of life and wisdom, surrounded by fleets of devoted minions and enveloped in flames that will never consume her.” They relish in their unapologetic gluttony.
Mizuno currently has work in a solo exhibition titled Ambrosial Affair at the Narwhal Contemporary in Toronto. This is the second in a three-part exhibition series titled Junko Mizuno’s Food Obsession. It’s on view until March 15 of this year.