Luis Camnitzer is a German-born Uruguayan artist who currently lives in New York. A conceptual artist, working mainly in printmaking, sculpture and installation, Camnitzer’s work explores subjects such as social injustice, repression and institutional critique. His work is often witty, if not biting, and generally has political undertones punctuated by the use of language.
With beginnings in the Conceptual tradition of the 1960s and 70s, much of Camnitzer’s earlier works are text-based. Though he has lived in New York for many years, Camnitzer’s work also deals largely with ideas tied to his native homeland. His Uruguayan Torture Series from the early 80s demonstrate his interest in social and political issues regarding an individual in society. Camnitzer juxtaposes images with text containing connotations of violence. Subtle, Camnitzer leaves the viewer to decide his or her role as a spectator to the “disappeared” in Latin America. Leftovers, 1970, consists of several boxes stacked against a gallery wall. Each individually bandaged and stained with red paint, the word “leftovers” is stenciled on the sides. The piece evokes the idea of dismembered body parts and the work as a whole represents the political turbulence and violence that was happening in Uruguay and other Latin American countries during that time.
Some have written about Camnitzer’s work as a kind of poetry whereby Camnitzer has explored the way words function visually rather than verbally. Though Camnitzer denies this interpretation, there is an undoubted rhythm to his work that feels like prose with or without the inclusion of text. His 2001-02 installation of real books cemented into place feels completely lyrical in nature. The books are fortified in place, protected for all time. This piece embodies the part pessimistic, part romantic aspect that runs through much of Camnitzer’s work.
From Carnival in Haiti to West African Masquerade, Phyllis Galembo has seen it all. Humanity has always had such a fascination with dressing up–with becoming someone else for even a short period of time–that these costumes and the rituals associated with them play an important role in these societies’ cultural textures. Galembo photographs these moments in which people become magical, steeped in the symbolism of their dress. So, what does it say about us if our definition of costume is a sexed up, polyester sailer/nurse/bunny?
It takes some serious skills to make photorealistic watercolors, but that’s exactly what Christopher St. Leger has going on in his work. He’s rendered a series of skateboarders kick-flipping and cruising which are particularly fluid, along with a range of impressive cityscapes. Like a looser, more colorful Richard Estes, St. Leger will trick you into thinking your looking at the real thing.
Heike Weber‘s installations transform a space in a surprisingly simple (albeit painstaking) medium. Her installations are actually drawn directly on the floor, walls, and ceiling of these locations. The surface is first primed in acrylic paint and patiently drawn over in permanent marker.The drawings are highly detailed abstract line-forms. Each endless series of waves nearly seem to undulate around the room. At other times, the installations resemble an enormous and fantastic topographical map projected directly onto the space.
A simple piece of software got us through the dark ages of computing before the Internet allowed us to waste company time more effectively. Now you can reconnect with this old friend on the other side of the computer screen. Solitaire.exe is a physical pixel-for-pixel recreation of the massively popular computer card game included in the Windows 98 operating system.
Created by Evan Roth (co-founder of Graffiti Research Lab) this signed and numbered edition of 500 decks was created exclusively for The Cooper-Hewitt. These official Bicycle® Playing Cards are printed on linen by The United States Playing Card Company. Unfortunately they are already sold out but I’m sure they will eventually show up on eBay. (via)
French artist Marie Blanchard draws nice illustrations with what appear to be markers (I can’t tell as the site is in French). I like how minimal they are; she really explores just how little can be in an illustration and still have it be a legitimate piece. She also runs a book imprint called Shining Books, which recently published her latest book, entitled Echoes.
Kathryn Mayo and Doug Winter, a husband and wife photography team based in Sacramento, collaborate with their models to create vintage portraits, seemingly of the past, using the traditional wet plate collodion process. This type of photography was born in the 1850s, but soon faded from the foreground, due to the proliferation of more practical, less time consuming processes involving dry gelatin emulsion.
However, in today’s fast-paced iPhone app culture, where formatting is clean, easy, and instantaneous, ironically, the slow painstaking process is exactly what this artistic pair prefer about collodion. Mayo elaborates, “Each image takes about 15-20 minutes to complete from focusing the camera, coating and sensitizing the plate, exposing, and processing. So, models need to have patience as not each image comes out perfect, and it takes a few to get one we like–sometimes, there are times when the chemistry isn’t working up to par and we don’t get anything at all.” Regardless of outcome, their passion is not just about product, but discovery and investigation. Mayo continues, “I love the idea of using a process steeped in history and with the ghosts of photographers who have come before me. It is a process that is wholly addicting.”
Walking the line between fine art and craft, Brent Owens has a characteristic style of woodworking that he incorporates with a somewhat irreverent sense of humor and applies to a myriad of subjects. Conspicuously hand-carved, embracing the flaws and all, Owens enhances his imperfect look by selecting wood with notable imperfections. The casual woodwork is not a comment on Owens’ talents. Rather it is done to emphasize the fact that the human hand has influenced the material. Conceptually, Owens works from the notion that humans have a tendency to render nature amenable to their own agenda. Describing this “healthy disrespect for nature” as a “shameless manipulation of a gorgeous natural material,” Owens considers his woodworking to be “imposing his own desires on the material” in the name of progressing culture.
Owens’ exploration of craft takes him in several directions. His “Turkish rugs,” for instance, are carved freehand and modeled after Googled images. These works are juxtaposed with carved paintings of appropriated text of medical queries and responses, which have been translated from Chinese to English. The results are a mix of park signage and conceptual art exhibited as a confused mix of words that have lost the nuance of human translation. The works becomes symbolic of how epically the human desire to understand and control everything so often fails.
Both funny and frightening Owens’ works are ultimately a representation of the fact that craft as fine art becomes a commentary on fine art itself. Thereby becoming commentary on culture, and human nature at large.