Steven Charles has a show of new work up now at Stux Gallery in Chelsea. Although he was friendly meeting Steven for the first time was a little unsettling. It felt a little like I imagine spiritual seekers felt like when they met the Maharijji in the 1960s’, like meeting some strange saint. I met him through Aaron Johnson who told me Steven was one of his favorite painters.
During the studio visit Steven and I talked about how he was working as a janitor, but just a couple of years ago he was selling paintings for six-figure sums. He was another victim of 2008, but he didn’t seem bummed out. In fact, he was just going along, and to use another Maharajji idea, he seemed very present. His painting method involves creating something to react to: a painting could start by splashing paint on a surface or by gluing a kid’s sock to a board. Click read more to see his work in progress.
Jalal Abuthina is a photographer with a history as varied as his work. He was born in Dublin but grew up all over the world, drifting between Libya, Greece, Tasmania, Australia, and Dubai. His jet-setting youth and current day job as a real estate consultant in Dubai have obviously informed his culturally charged imagery as well as his interest in clean, architectural lines.
Born into a long bloodline of creatives, illustrator Treasure Frey’s work of collage/ drawings is certainly something to watch for. Her work reminds me a lot of the awesome animations from Monty Python, except with the intricate combination of beautiful mark-making with varying line weights, loops, and brightly colored shapes, she has made a killer style of her own.
Walter de Maria’s Earth Room, permanently installed at 141 Wooster Street in New York since 1980, is nothing but 250 cubic yards of black soil filling 3,600 square feet. As Jerry Saltz describes it, it is a “majestic work that gives us bodily confirmations of the power of scale, material, natural phenomena, and art.” Indeed, Mother Nature’s material can provide a profound art experience that other artists have also experimented with. Gabriel Kuri uses familiar, everyday materials like newspapers and slabs of grass to focus attention on contemporary consumer culture and the circulation of things like money, information and energy in our global economy. Ruben Ochoa’s works, specifically his “Overturned Foundations” currently installed at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, alter our relationship to the ground and the wall by shifting our perception of space. At The Carriage House at The Islip Arts Museum in 2011 Olivia Kaufman-Rovira installed a watering system that grew giant grass chandeliers over a six week period. The grass chandeliers were interspersed with others made of discarded plastic bottles. The sculptures were meant to comment on resources needed to keep up lawns, how non-biodegradable materials pollute our environment and how important our water supply is. Phoebe Washburn is a New York artist who incorporates organic matter such as sod or plants into her installations, which act as attempts to exert control over the chaotic. Mathilde Roussel’s works, often suspended in mid-air, are grass sculptures that represent the growth and decay of life. Representations of gravity, time and the fragility of existence the works are poetic and beautiful. Sean Martindale replaced cracked city tree planters in Toronto with grass, making it appear as though it had spilled out over the planter. A kind of street art, the planters brought beauty and attention to an otherwise damaged part of the city. Mylyn Nguyen is an Australian artist who gives form to imaginary figures by sculpting natural materials such as moss, pebbles dirt, twigs etc.
The mysterious photographer who simply goes by the name Arber and describes where he’s from as “the North” creates vaguely surreal, bleakly erotic, darkly off-kilter images, pulling back a curtain to reveal a parallel world full of mystery, unsettling sexual blankness and enigmatic women. We sure wish we could get a last name and a real city from him but his work is so captivating that we gave him a pass.
Takato Yamamoto paints intricate scenes of both delicate beauty and savage darkness. Yamamoto calls his style “Heisei Estheticism,” which blends traditional Ukiyo-e woodblock prints with images of bondage and horror akin to those found in modern manga. Serene-faced girls with bloodstained and skeletal bodies oversee their quiet victims; bodies punctured with arrows twist in what could be agony or sexual ecstasy. Despite his disturbing subject matter, however, Yamamoto never shows violence in its most gratuitous moment; instead, he depicts rising tension, conjuration, and the aftermath—the vampires recoiling with their prey, dark rituals blooming into grotesque beauty, and uncanny sexual encounters.
Sex and death are familiar lovers in Yamamoto’s works, wrapped up together like cadaverous bouquets that manifest the fusion of pleasure and pain. Morality is subsumed into visceral moments of seduction and satisfaction. Despite the brutality, there is a sensuality that emanates from the paintings—one that explores with detail the experiences of the body as it passes over thresholds of desire and mortality. With delicate lines and interwoven forms of beauty and rot, Yamamoto’s erotic nightmares stir the imagination.
Jeremy Willis did a studio visit with B/D in 2010, and he’s been developing his work since that time. His new body of work employs ultra-saturated color schemes alongside imagery that is being distorted and displaced. Faces form and dissolve, bodies jump and skitter over water like flat rocks being skipped by kids on the edge of a lake. The imagery revolves around figures of statuesque women, they are presented to the viewer in a way that evokes and defeats desire in the sense that they are there and not there. You can see his work show, Jackie and Judy, up now at Allegra LaViola Gallery in Manhattan. The title of the show comes from a catchy Ramones song, “Jackie is a punk. Judy is a runt. They went down to the Mud Club, and they both got drunk.”