New York-based photographer Oliver Wasow works mostly with digital photography, having taught it at Bard and SVA. He creates hyperrealistic, crisp landscapes that at times can look like portals into another world. And while he’s refrained from it recently, his composite work from the late 90s is my favorite.
Tenmyouya Hisashi is a Saitama-based artist who infuses traditional Japanese art with non-traditional media (mostly acrylic paint) and images from modern life. Calling his work “Neo Nihonga,” Tenmyouya seeks to renew the relevance of Japanese-style painting by portraying old motifs through a modern lens, thereby celebrating a long history of Japanese culture and artistic tradition. Among his images are samurai playing soccer, armor-clad animals, and a Japanese/American street “dance-off.” His work is also informed by contemporary cultural theories and critical thinking; for example, in “Japanese Spirit #3,” a man wearing a traditional tsuna rides a motorized skateboard. This painting “draws upon and amplifies the stereotypes foreigners hold of Japan and was intended to be viewed by a foreign audience” — hence the odd mix of traditional Japanese imagery with high-tech apparatuses (Source).
In 2010, Tenmyouya proposed a new art concept called Basara, referring to an aestheticization of defiance, extending from the “outlaw samurais” of the Nanboku dynasty era to the youth subcultures of present-day Japan. Exploring this trend through neo-traditional Japanese art unravels assumptions about a conservative and subdued cultural history (Source). Basara is also a response to enculturation from the West — the inflow of Western culture and media that immensely influenced Japanese life. As written on his website, Tenmyouya seeks through his art to bring back the vibrant “sun” in Japanese art, where before it was relegated as the passive “moon”:
“Basara aims to reverse traditional values in order to restore the fertile light of the sun that originally characterized Japanese art. It is at once an attempt to claim back through relativization within Japanese art—rather than by comparison with the outside—the diversity that it is supposed to abound in so much more.” (Source)
David Hornung makes paintings from both oil and gouache. He paints quiet simple, small houses located in fenced fields, bucolic scenes of nature, solitary women and men, memento mori, snakes and birds, paths and walls. Objects in his paintings seem to be a distillation of universal human experiences with the world and among each other. Some objects are singled out as being important by a kind of twin cloud, the direction of light, or glowing patches of color. The paintings are beautiful executions of color theory, which makes sense because David wrote the book on color theory “Color: A Workshop Approach.” His subject matter hovers between observation and the symbolic, and he refers to Philip Guston’s Alphabet series with plain respect, and like Guston, David was reluctant to talk about image-based thinking. We walked through Brooklyn on the way get some lunch, and David said that painting is hard to talk about because the ideas come out of working with images, that the process gives painters their ideas, which is a kind of reversal, because for most people who work with ideas – the ideas generate the process.
You can see David Hornung’s work at the John Davis Gallery in Hudson NY from May 23rd to June 16th.
Observing Brendan Flanagan’s paintings is like walking through a dark dream of regrets, fears, and loneliness. Vague, human-like figures in physical, emotional, or silent turmoil completely transient within their own surreal environment.
David R Harper’s artwork is about the projection or imposition of meaning on an object, especially concerning memorial in death. He embroiders over taxidermy animals on prints of still life paintings from the 18th century. He sees the dead animals as a human way of addressing mortality; feeling empathy for the dead animal, but also as a way of avoiding grappling with our own inevitable demise. The embroidery creates a void or emptiness, especially literal in the white thread, and more dynamic but equally vacant with the use of green patterning in The Fall. Thread operates in most cases as a cold medium and Harper employs it extremely effectively in combination with his meticulous technique.
His most ambitious work is titled I Tried, and I Tried, and I Tried, presumably a quasi-reference to the Rolling Stones song (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, as well as Napoleon’s conquests. Harper embroiders the entire horse of David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps. In the original artwork the horse is mostly white with black on its tail and head, where Harper creates a gradient that transforms from black to light grey. What is truly incredible is that this process doesn’t flatten the horse; it retains its form in the sculpting of the flow of the thread. The beast becomes much more powerful and haunting
Art Info has a great slideshow that compares Harper’s sculpture and embroidery work to other well-known artists. See it here.
When I’m in SF I always wonder who the hell works in this town. It’s not the crust punks begging for change to feed their dogs, it’s not the new age hippies hugging trees in the parks, it’s not even the bike messengers who were hip to fix gears 10 years ago when Amaze and Twist were painting up a storm. Apparently it’s the worms.
Photographer Brian McCarty combines the innocence of childhood with the horrors of war in his series WAR-TOYS. Violent scenes are reenacted with toys; Bombs are dropped on a pink plastic house, while toy soldiers gun down a giant-headed doll. McCarty’s source material is the drawings of children who live in war-torn areas like the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel.
The artist travelled to the sites where the children had been, which adds another level of sadness to these images. This project is not just the undertaking of McCarty, but he pairs with other aid workers as well. From his artist statement:
Employing principles of expressive art therapy, my process begins with observation and guided interaction with children under the care of humanitarian organizations operating in areas of active conflict. Specialized therapists and caregivers conduct art-based interviews on my behalf, inviting children to draw pictures about their lives and experiences. The resulting illustrations serve as art direction and basis for photographic exploration.
McCarty tries to involve the tiny artists, too, and uses toys that are acquired locally. You’ll see that a Disney Princess is in the line of fire. He writes:
When possible and under the guidance of specialists, I invite the children to actively participate and use the photographic process as a form of therapeutic play. The resulting photographs provide an interpretive document of witnessed events and context for the children’s accounts.
McCarty plans to continue this project and travel to Afghanistan, Sudan, and Colombia. (Via Huffington Post)
KHUAN+KTRON is a three person design studio based in Belgium, though its members come from all over – Japan, Russia, and, uh, Belgium. Their varying backgrounds is clearly a boon to their work, which shows a lot of influences. Actually, KHUAN+KTRON have helpfully listed some of these influences on their site, so we don’t have to guess at what they are – medieval torture techniques, people with monstrous sideburns (not counting women), and free jazz are just a few. Check out the full list on their site!