French Illustrator Julien Pacaud is delightfuly eccentric; her works look as if they’ve been dreamed up by children after feasting on their yearly spoils of Halloween candy. (What? Your parents didn’t tell you sugar would give you nightmares?) I would be lying if I told you I had any idea what this soccer-chicken picture means, but I still find it incredibly amusing.
From 1977 through 1985, Photographer Jim Goldberg took documentary-style pictures of transients in the Mission District and well-off San Franciscans in their homes and had the subjects write on their portraits. The combination of text and image is still incredibly intimate, even in this age of Instagram and Facebook. The dichotomy between the affluent and the destitute is obvious, yet the universality of the emotions the writers share is striking: pain, loneliness, disappointment, joy, security, contentment.
“I think my outrage about the desperation of the poor — and the dissatisfaction of the rich — stemmed in part from my belief that they represented a derogation from that path, a veering off course that had to be rooted out and documented.”
The combination of image and text is what makes this series so arresting and raw, but at the time of its initial publication in 1985 it was a radical decision, derided in a New York Times review as “a sad lack of trust on Mr. Goldberg’s part in both the power of his photographs to speak for themselves and in his viewers to understand them without comment.” Contemporary artists such as Brandon Stanton from Humans of New York, have taken this format and breathed new life into it through its immediate dissemination on the Internet.
Out of print since 1985, Jim Goldberg’s Rich and Poor has been completely re-designed and expanded by the artist for Steidl. Available for the first time in hardcover, Rich and Poor builds upon the classic combination of photographs and handwriting and adds a surplus of vintage material and contemporary photographs that have never been published or exhibited. (Source)
What comes across in these images is the shocking discrepancy of material goods and environments. The writings expose an expanded truth, though. There is obvious inequality in education and writing ability, leading to the impression that the poor suffer more than the rich. And that may be true in some ways — lack of opportunities, healthcare, and hope are all devastating. Pain is pain, though, and suffering is universal, as is love and gratitude. These portraits—touching, tender, hopeless, and sad—speak to our commonalities, as relevant in 2014 as in 1985.
German photographer Frank Bauer takes celebrity portraits. It’s an interesting conundrum, capturing a famous face on film. The picture is taken because the audience wants to see that well-known (if not loved) face, but the resulting image is of a sight we’re used to seeing. How, then, to make the ubiquitous new again?
In Bauer’s skilled hands, the celebrities seem to relax. The inner sanctum opens a bit, and the person behind the celebrity peeks out. Actress Tilda Swinton, known for her androgynous fierceness, softens. Cool, coture-wearer Cate Blanchette smolders. Clearly not camera ready, director Steve McQueen stifles a yawn. Musician Iggy Pop looks stripped of artifice in his rear-view mirror shot.
For all the personal exposures in his work, Bauer is remarkably hard to find. His website is neatly organized, with a news section that documents his recent work, but there’s no “I” there, no personal commentary or gossip. Same with his Facebook page: friendly-seeming and public and absolutely impersonal. Perhaps it’s his way of creating a void, one that these performers will want to fill. Maybe he’s seen what it means to reveal oneself. It could be a business decision, an unconscious choice, a cautious reticence. Whatever the reason, Frank Bauer, unlike his famous subjects, is a bit of a cipher, one who lets his intimate and beautiful work speak for him. (Via It’s Nice That)
Nice selection of illustrations on Neil Preston’s portfolio site. I especially like the Shakespeare cover series (pictured above)
Adam Lister combines geometric abstraction, cubism, minimalism, pixelation, and popular culture to create his vibrant watercolor paintings. Through visual abstraction, Lister is able to render familiar images from film, television, and the art world, combining various nostalgic representations. In a collaboration with artist Isaac Budmen, Lister also creates 3D sculptures of these 8 bit paintings by using a 3D printer and sandstone that are available for sale.
Lister explains to The Washington Post, “Having grown up playing Atari and Nintendo video games, this broken-down, angular method of processing and displaying information became an interesting guideline for me to translate and selectively restructure some of the most famous paintings in the world.” (via neatorama)
While the term “heroin chic” emerged in the 1990s as a droll description of the trendy androgyny and grungy-yet-glamorous look of contemporaneous supermodels, artists Loral Amir and Gigi Ben Artzi present the expression through a literal lens with their series, Downtown Divas.
Comprised of a short film and photographic series, Downtown Divas presents heroin-addicted Russian prostitutes as they don designer clothing and pose for a reimagined fashion spread. Juxtaposing bruised legs, tired eyes, and aloof expressions with luxury materials, trendy ensembles, and elegant silhouettes, the striking photographs appear disjointed and disconcerting. Though aesthetically startling and indicative, they paint a very different picture from the corresponding short film. Comprised of candid interviews, the poignant film surprisingly does not focus on each woman’s hardships; Amir and Artzi sought, rather, to “show a different side of the women and ignore that ‘drug addict’ tag that they carry around” (Bullett). By strictly avoiding questions regarding their drug use or experiences as sex workers, Amir and Artzi are able to instead focus on unseen—and often ignored—aspects of the women’s lives, including recurring dreams, childhood aspirations, lost loves, and favorite colors.
While many applaud Downtown Divas as a critique of the fashion industry and its apparent glamorization of drug addiction, contrary claims of exploitation and questions of the subjects’ ability—or inability—to consent have also emerged. Thus, while seemingly intended as a means to humanize the women, many hold that it instead achieves the exact opposite by exploiting them and taking advantage of their apparent afflictions and unwell mental states.
After viewing the photos and watching the video, what do you think of Downtown Divas? Humanizing social commentary, or exploitative agenda? (via Feature Shoot)
Sif Itona Westerberg, working out of Copenhagen, crafts organic, twisted sculptures and nostalgic textile work infused with elements of delicious 80’s hardcore. And for good measure, she also renders tributary graphite drawings in a cemented, clear-cut vision; you know, just so we stay on the same page. She’s recently exhibited such work within immersive gallery installations that economically work toward the creation of an overall effective, dripping ode to the last two decades of the twentieth century (she pulls off the backlight).
But what business does Westerberg, born in 1985, have in the composition of a body of work based on iconography and experience that had all but died by the time she reached her teens? Perhaps, a good amount. This work is a wonderfully executed exercise in the common experience of conjured nostalgia- pining for experiences you never had. For through the process of remembering that which you don’t actually remember , you are able to present an account much more infused with spirit and holism. When did facts ever help anyone, anyway?
Sif Itona Westerberg is currently showing a series of collaborative work with Asbjørn Skou (Armsrock) at MOHS exhibit in Copenhagen, Denmark.