Paul Buckley, the VP Executive Creative Director for Penguin USA, has continued to art director and design some of the most eye-catching book covers I’ve ever seen. Instead of relying on a simplified photograph with super-clean typography, or reaching back for a retro look, Buckley hires the best-of-the-best in illustration and independent comics (Burns, Hanuka, Millionaire, to name a few) to create wonderfully fresh graphic images that leave little to be desired. And since these books are all classics, you don’t have to worry about being deceived by these alluring covers, because the interiors are guaranteed to be just as perfect as the exteriors. It is encouraging that the daunting sterility of the Kindle and Nook are being combated by men like Buckley, Kidd, Gall, and so many more, and if such devotion remains to be ceaselessly put into future book production, there should be little fear of physical books disappearing anytime soon. For a complete look at all of the book layouts (fronts, backs, interiors) see Sir Buckley’s Flickr.
Laughter is universal; it transcends culture, trends, and time. The art world, however, is not considered to be droll. Galleries and museums are stoic, intellectual spaces and works of art are discussed in academic terms. Yet in this scholarly world there are artists that buck conventions and use humor to engage us and make us laugh and think. Art is a medium of communication and the artists in this issue have found that humor is the most powerful way to engage their audience and convey their message.
This class clowns issue of Beautiful/Decay is dedicated to those artists who pack their work not only with meaning but with a powerful punch line that keeps us coming back for more. Join us as we delve into the world of Winnie Truong’s surreal and funny portraits, and find the humor in Devin Troy Strother’s discomfort with his own race. Witness how Maurizio Cattelan has become the art world’s premier prankster and gain insight into artistic duo littlewhitehead’s mixture of dark humor and lo-tech fabrication.
View our cover artist Stefan Glerum’s arresting illustrations, and Ben Aqua’s subversive photography. See how William Powhida’s cynical, self-deprecating, and universally criticizing works take the role of the court jester to a new level. As if that weren’t enough to keep you busy, we’ve also invited an international cast of artists, illustrators, and designers to create original works for our Project Pages based on our theme. So get out your X-ray specs as we explore the worlds of Beautiful/Decay’s Class Clowns.
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Beata Wilczek is an artist and photographer living in Wrocław, Poland. Through her photography work and her collages, she mixes old and new whilst retaining a feminine edge. Check out more of her work below.
Charlie Engman is a New York-based photographer who looks to capture everyday elements that have been stuck together in new and bizarre ways. The Oxford University graduate came to photography late, but his photographs show a true talent in bringing an air of surreality to the everyday. More of his work can be seen below.
Thinking about my 80s upbringing, I’m not too sure if life has really changed all that much between then and 2011. True, kids today don’t call each other on the landline, and have also seen more cat videos than I ever did at their age, but hey, small potatoes. China’s post-80s generation, on the other hand, born on the cusp of their country’s breakneck economic development, have experienced some truly seismic stuff, with much about life today being nearly unrecognizable from the distant past. Wang2mu is an illustrator living in Guangzhou who explores post-80s themes and nostalgia through a warped “schoolhouse” aesthetic. Crowded by urgent slogans, his grotesque children straddle rockets, robots, and other generational emblems.
Artist Kate Tucker’s work has amazing colorblock layering in her pattern pieces, as well as her more representational works. She has intricate drawings and bold paintings that together are seriously impressive. Her series “Counterfeit Sanctity’ has tons of versions of the same drawing in different color, pattern, and media that are mesmerizing when seen together.
Berkeley, California-based artist Justin Lovato explains that he likes to create works which are “dreamlike, ethereal landscapes that reflect his thoughts on nature and our relation to it, human belief systems, the psycho-political-control system, multidimensional concepts, and esoteric symbolism.” His paintings and illustrations are imaginative, seemingly drawn from some hidden symbolism within a secreted-away corner of the mind. Symbols and words intertwine with twisting bodies, often wounded by geometry.